Human Rights in Latin America: A Politics of Transformation 9781512822663

This second edition of Human Rights in Latin America explores the dynamics underlying a vast range of human rights initi

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Human Rights in Latin America: A Politics of Transformation

Table of contents :
Introduction: A Politics of Transformation
Chapter 1: Why Human Rights Abuses Occur
Chapter 2: Grappling with the Past
Chapter 3: The Southern Cone
Chapter 4: Central America and Mexico
Chapter 5: The Andean Region
Chapter 6: Brazil and the Caribbean
Chapter 7: Social Movements, Identity, and Human Rights
Chapter 8: Economic and Social Rights
Chapter 9: Human Rights Defenders
Chapter 10: Regional and Global Governance
Chapter 11: Human Rights Change
Conclusion: ¡Sí Se Puede!
Appendix 1: Internship Opportunities
Appendix 2: Suggested Assignments for Instructors

Citation preview

­Human Rights in Latin Amer­i­ca

Pennsylvania Studies in ­Human Rights Bert B. Lockwood, Series Editor A complete list of books in the series is available from the publisher.

­Human Rights in Latin Amer­i­ca A Politics of Transformation Second Edition

Sonia Cardenas and Rebecca Root

University of Pennsylvania Press Philadelphia

 Copyright © 2022 University of Pennsylvania Press An ­earlier edition was published in 2011 as ­Human Rights in Latin Amer­i­ca: A Politics of Terror and Hope by Sonia Cardenas. All rights reserved. Except for brief quotations used for purposes of review or scholarly citation, none of this book may be reproduced in any form by any means without written permission from the publisher. Published by University of Pennsylvania Press Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104-4112 www​.­upenn​.­edu​/­pennpress Printed in the United States of Amer­i­ca on acid-­free paper 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Hardcover ISBN 978-1-5128-2265-6 Paperback ISBN 978-1-5128-2270-0 Ebook ISBN 978-1-5128-2266-3 A catalogue record for this book is available from the Library of Congress.

 For Andy and our ­children, Alex and Samantha —­SC For Abe —­R R


Preface ix Introduction: A Politics of Transformation


PART I. LEGACIES OF ABUSE Chapter 1: Why H ­ uman Rights Abuses Occur


Chapter 2: Grappling with the Past


PART II. ­HUMAN RIGHTS CASES Chapter 3: The Southern Cone


Chapter 4: Central Amer­i­ca and Mexico


Chapter 5: The Andean Region


Chapter 6: Brazil and the Ca­rib­bean


PART III. POLITICS, RIGHTS, AND IN­EQUALITY Chapter 7: Social Movements, Identity, and ­Human Rights


Chapter 8: Economic and Social Rights


PART IV. AGENTS OF REFORM Chapter 9: ­Human Rights Defenders


Chapter 10: Regional and Global Governance


Chapter 11: ­Human Rights Change


Conclusion: ¡Sí Se Puede! 291

viii C on t e n t s Appendix 1: Internship Opportunities


Appendix 2: Suggested Assignments for Instructors


Notes 307 Index 317



ometimes we are inspired to do what is right and not what is con­ve­ nient. This second edition has been long in coming, but it was slowed down by administrative work, personal responsibilities, and fi­nally a pandemic. Still, its message of ­human rights awareness and hope—of how change can occur against the weight of history—­was worth updating and sharing. Like the h ­ uman rights strug­gles we examine, this volume was not solitary work; indeed, this second edition would never have been pos­si­ble without the partnership of Rebecca Root. As coauthor, Rebecca brought the sensibilities of a no-­nonsense po­liti­cal scientist and an astute ­human rights scholar with her background in comparative politics, complementing my own training in international relations and law. We embarked on this edition truly motivated by a belief that a text that could reach p ­ eople broadly on the subject of h ­ uman rights in Latin Amer­i­ca was well worth the effort, no ­matter the obstacles. The first edition of ­Human Rights in Latin Amer­i­ca, which appeared more than a de­cade ago, grew out of a course that I taught at Trinity College. That the book would be used in classrooms around the world and across disciplines was as gratifying as anything to me. Rebecca herself had taught the book in her classes over the years, able to see it in new ways. It was clear to me that she valued the book enough to improve it. As we discussed coauthoring the second edition, we both wanted to extend the basic structure, while grounding the book in case studies and devoting more space to the economic and social rights that are so inextricably linked to ­human rights in the twenty-­first ­century. We also wanted the text to stay research-­informed and to be highly usable for undergraduate teaching, serving as an accessible introduction to the subject.

x Pr e fac e In addition to including case-­study chapters and a wider array of rights and issues, all now covered in more depth, we changed the subtitle from “A Politics of Terror and Hope” to “A Politics of Transformation.” It is a subtle change, which highlights the passage of time in the region and also a sense theoretically that it is change itself that we need to better understand. The last chapter, titled ¡Sí se puede! (Yes, we can!) is a nod to the enduring hope, against all odds, of activists and change agents everywhere. It is also a recognition (since the phrase originated in the Latinx community in the United States and then was ­adopted more broadly) that the bound­aries between life in Latin Amer­i­ca and life in the United States are as porous and positive as they are complicated. My hope in writing this second edition with Rebecca is that students who read this book ­will be inspired in some small way to help transform their communities through creativity and resilience. The social protests that rocked the United States and Latin Amer­i­ca in 2020, exposing everyday truths about race and vio­lence—­during a pandemic that amplified in­ equality and disproportionately harmed ­those already marginalized—­gave this message of transformation a greater sense of urgency. The story of ­human rights in Latin Amer­i­ca is a­ fter all a deeply h ­ uman one, reminding us of the transformative power each and ­every one of us has to create change. Sonia Cardenas


 A Politics of Transformation


he story of ­human rights in Latin Amer­i­ca is one of remarkable change and ongoing in­equality. The region has overcome widespread terror but continues to confront systemic abuse, discrimination, poverty, and marginalization. While each country’s trajectory varies widely, reflecting the uniqueness of each national landscape, some regional patterns do emerge, based on a history of shared experiences. Unlike other regions of the world, it is the scale and scope of the h ­ uman rights transformations that have occurred in Latin Amer­i­ca that merit closest attention and offer valuable insights for anyone interested in the dynamics of ­human rights change. In the 1970s and 1980s, Latin Amer­i­ca was synonymous with po­liti­cal terror and ­human rights abuses. Hundreds of thousands died in civil wars and by extrajudicial execution; p ­ eople of all ages and walks of life w ­ ere tortured in clandestine detention centers; and countless individuals ­were “dis­appeared,” their bodies never to be found. In response, vibrant and courageous ­human rights organ­izations, whose members dared to protest even during the height of repression, ­were formed. Activists and international allies fought to restore democracy and dismantle impunity, or the idea that ­those who commit h ­ uman rights abuses w ­ ill not be punished. By the 1990s, the region was enjoying big gains in po­liti­cal freedoms, economic development, l­egal protections, and some of the first systematic attempts in the world to pursue truth and justice for past h ­ uman rights abuses. A broader agenda of change emerged as well, encompassing the demands of activists for the rights of ­women, LGBTQ individuals, and the indigenous, among ­others. Pro­gress on transitional justice and in ­these newer

2 I n t roduc t ion areas of activism has been facilitated in part by the inter-­A merican ­human rights system, the developing world’s most extensive regional system of institutions to promote ­human rights. A network of treaties, a body of experts who investigate and monitor abuse, and a regional court all offer forums for ­human rights victims and their advocates. While imperfect, the region’s ­human rights mechanisms have set impor­tant pre­ce­dents around the world. And yet ­human rights violations and impunity are an ongoing real­ity in Latin Amer­i­ca. An annual report by Amnesty International observed that “the Amer­i­cas [remain] one of the world’s most violent and unequal regions.”1 Amnesty International documents that torture, disappearances, extrajudicial executions, and ill treatment persist throughout the region, alongside systematic vio­lence against ­women; attacks on ­human rights defenders; and poverty that disproportionately harms society’s most vulnerable members, including c­ hildren and indigenous groups. Even if the geography of po­liti­cal vio­lence has shifted over time or the overall magnitude of abuse has declined in recent de­cades, as subsequent chapters show, oppression and in­equality are still a real­ity for many of the region’s ­people. Despite the pro­gress associated with truth commissions and l­egal ­trials, most ­human rights violators continue to walk the streets of Latin Amer­i­ca, often in close proximity to their victims. The gap between this real­ity and the soaring rhe­toric of new constitutions, progressive legislation, and judicial rulings is glaring. Latin Amer­i­ca is fertile ground for exploring the politics of transformation that underlie the study of h ­ uman rights in the twenty-­first c­ entury. This transformation occurs, first and foremost, on a ­human level. Survivors of torture and repression often describe their experience as a seemingly impossible mix of terror and hope: agonizing fear and pain, combined with an ardent wish for a better ­future. Studying ­human rights issues also entails an uncomfortable blend of terror at witnessing the betrayal of other ­human beings, and a hope inspired by activists, survivors, and allies who fight for a better world. As observers, we can be si­mul­ta­neously drawn to and repelled by h ­ uman rights accounts. Stories of terror expose the darkest side of humanity while evoking empathy for the victims; given a dif­ fer­ent set of conditions, any one of us could fall prey to abuse. Stories of transformation remind us of the resilience of ­human beings in overcoming horrific obstacles. As Kathryn Sikkink, a leading scholar of ­human rights change, writes, “Hope sustains ­human rights work.”2 We share her commitment to carefully studying what has worked and what remains to

I n t roduc t ion 3 be done, what other countries can learn from Latin Amer­i­ca, and what rigorous social science can teach us about h ­ uman rights change. The region offers an intriguing arena for studying h ­ uman rights transformations. It saw an inordinately high level of abuse in the twentieth ­century and more varied but per­sis­tent levels of abuse in the twenty-­first ­century. It has a history of power­ful h ­ uman rights organ­izations that drove change against all odds. It also has seen impressive efforts to promote truth, accountability, and more inclusive politics. And its checkered history with the United States serves as an impor­tant testing ground for ­human rights considerations in U.S. foreign policy. W ­ hether one is critical or supportive of U.S. policies, the role of this power­ful country has to be factored into most discussions of h ­ uman rights in world affairs. We ­will grapple with all ­these issues in this book, which joins a broad range of research and testimony to understand central concerns associated with the politics of h ­ uman rights transformation, including the origins of abuse, the sources of reform, and the challenge of accountability. ­These issues together reveal the ­human rights story in Latin Amer­i­ca and the po­ liti­cal themes r­ unning through it. Our goal is to fuse real-­world issues with po­liti­cal analy­sis to understand why h ­ uman rights conditions vary so widely, serving to terrorize and liberate ­people.

What Is at Stake? This book takes h ­ uman rights violations as its point of departure. Th ­ ese abuses are more than historically significant or intellectually in­ter­est­ing. The ongoing pervasiveness of some rights violations makes them a pressing ­matter: At stake are the lives and welfare of individual ­human beings who are confronted daily by systems of oppression and perpetrators of abuse. Perhaps this is why the subject of h ­ uman rights continues to evoke such intense controversies, as dif­fer­ent groups strug­gle to define the limits of acceptability for past and pre­sent be­hav­ior. From a policy perspective, moreover, devising effective h ­ uman rights strategies—­whether by governments, international organ­izations, or activist groups—­may require a more accurate assessment of the roots of abuse. Without knowing why violations occur, stopping or preventing them can prove elusive. Taking ­human rights violations seriously also requires listening carefully to the voices of victims, some of which are presented in ­these pages. When ­these voices are silenced, it is all too tempting to overlook key questions or to forget what ­really is at stake.

4 I n t roduc t ion ­ uman rights norms are defined in this book as standards for how to H treat h­ uman beings. This is a deliberately minimalist, ­simple definition. Since ­human rights are standards, or rules about the way ­things should be, they exist even when they are not protected. Having a right is not the same ­thing as enjoying a right. An analogy from domestic law illustrates this fundamental claim. The law stipulates that ­people should stop at red lights; every­one has a right not to be hit and injured by p ­ eople who run red lights. Just ­because ­people do not always obey this standard does not mean that it does not exist. Likewise, you have a right not to be tortured. If you are tortured, your right is being v­ iolated; but it does not change the fact that you still have this right. Consequently, o­ thers can act on your behalf to ensure that your right not to be tortured is protected. ­Human rights are also entitlements, or ­things that any ­human being can hypothetically claim simply by virtue of being alive. When dif­fer­ent ­human rights come into conflict with one another, an international ­legal consensus exists as to which rights should never be suspended; ­these are the rights that protect individuals from slavery, torture, and extrajudicial executions. From a broader philosophical perspective, some experts claim that the most impor­tant ­human rights are ­those needed to ensure a life of basic h ­ uman decency, including rights to subsistence (i.e., basic food, shelter, and health care) and physical security.3 For specifics about which standards constitute ­human rights, the principal international h ­ uman rights documents can be consulted. Three of ­these documents, in par­tic­u­lar, are at the core of global standards: the 1948 Universal Declaration of ­Human Rights (UDHR), the International Covenant on Civil and Po­liti­cal Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Together, t­ hese three accords compose the International Bill of ­Human Rights. All other ­human rights treaties, w ­ hether international or regional, are more or less offshoots and elaborations of the standards enshrined in the UDHR (­Table 1) and in the two international h ­ uman rights covenants. What is at stake in studying h ­ uman rights in Latin Amer­i­ca, therefore, are the rights enumerated in the major h ­ uman rights documents, including the 1969 American Convention on H ­ uman Rights. Approaching ­these standards critically requires confronting competing visions of how ­human beings should be treated. Are some ­people in some circumstances not subject to all of the rights enumerated in the Universal Declaration of ­Human Rights? If so, who gets to determine the exceptions, and according to what

­Table 1. Standards in the Universal Declaration of ­Human Rights (1948) Every­one is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, po­liti­cal or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. (Article 2) Right to life, liberty, and security of person

Right to a nationality

Freedom from slavery or servitude

Right to marry and found a f­ amily

Freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment

Right to own property

Right to be recognized before the law

Freedom of thought, conscience, and religion

Freedom from arbitrary arrest, detention, or exile

Freedom of opinion and expression

Right to a fair and public hearing by an in­de­p en­dent and impartial tribunal

Freedom of peaceful assembly and association

Right to be presumed innocent ­until proved guilty

Right to participate in government, including in periodic and genuinely ­free elections

Freedom from ex post facto punishments

Right to social security, which is “indispensable for . . . ​dignity”

Freedom from arbitrary interference with privacy, f­ amily, home, or correspondence and from attacks on one’s honor or reputation

Right to work; equal pay for equal work; just remuneration; and right to form and join trade u ­ nions

Freedom of movement

Right to participate freely in the cultural life of the community; protection of intellectual property

Right to seek and enjoy asylum from po­liti­c al persecution

Right to a standard of living adequate for health and well-­being

Right to education Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein. (Article 30)

6 I n t roduc t ion criteria? Alternatively, are all ­human beings entitled to certain rights, and, if so, which ones? ­These are some of the difficult questions that any student of ­human rights must tackle. Most ­people tend to think of par­tic­u ­lar abuses when they think of ­human rights: torture, summary executions, genocide, or arbitrary incarceration. From the perspective of international law, t­ hese abuses are instances of noncompliance with internationally recognized h ­ uman rights norms. While ­t here are as many types of violations as ­t here are ­human rights, the history of h ­ uman rights in Latin Amer­i­ca requires paying close attention to a par­tic­u ­lar set of civil-­political rights known as physical-­ integrity (or personal-­integrity) rights. Th ­ ese rights involve bodily harm, sometimes but not always at the hands of state officials, and consist of four key rights: freedom from torture, freedom from extrajudicial executions, freedom from disappearances, and freedom from po­liti­cal imprisonment. ­These violations also go by more common terms like repression and coercion. International ­human rights treaties have defined physical-­integrity rights. For example, the Convention Against Torture (1984) defines torture as any act by which severe pain or suffering, ­whether physical or ­mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions. (Article 1) In practice, some of the most common forms of physical torture include electric shock, bodily suspension, beatings, food and w ­ ater deprivation, and sexual vio­lence. Psychological torture includes threats of vio­lence (often directed at loved ones), solitary confinement, forced observance of torture or killing (including of c­ hildren and spouses), sham executions, and intense sleep deprivation. All t­ hese abuses have been prevalent in Latin Amer­i­ca.

I n t roduc t ion 7 According to the Inter-­A merican Convention on Forced Disappearance of Persons (1996), moreover, a disappearance is “the act of depriving a person or persons of his or their freedom, in what­ever way, perpetrated by agents of the state or by persons or groups of persons acting with the authorization, support, or acquiescence of the state, followed by an absence of information or a refusal to acknowledge that deprivation of freedom or to give information on the whereabouts of that person, thereby impeding his or her recourse to the applicable ­legal remedies and procedural guarantees” (Article 2). Vari­ous h ­ uman rights treaties also define extrajudicial executions and po­liti­cal imprisonment. In general, extrajudicial executions refer to killings committed by governments outside of ­legal bound­aries. Murders by paramilitary groups directly supported or instigated by governments fall into this category as well. The identity of the victim does not m ­ atter as long as the death is the result of excessive or illegal use of force by state agents. Po­liti­cal imprisonment is, in turn, the incarceration of ­people b­ ecause of their identity, including their religion, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, or po­liti­cal beliefs. ­These violations feature centrally in this book b­ ecause ­t hese are the abuses that have elicited the most attention and have s­ haped policy debates vis-­à-­vis Latin Amer­i­ca. Not surprisingly, most of the research and testimonies on h ­ uman rights focus precisely on t­ hese abuses. That said, t­ here is increasing consensus that all ­human rights are interdependent. To most ­human rights advocates, Cold War debates over the primacy of civil-­ political versus economic-­social rights are nonproductive and largely moot. All types of h ­ uman rights are interdependent and necessary for h ­ uman dignity, regardless of ongoing controversies over the value of specific rights (e.g., debates over the importance of the right to a paid holiday). In view of this interdependence, Chapter 7 ­will address social movements premised on identity, which work to reverse discrimination and other violations of the rights of w ­ omen, LGBTQ citizens, and indigenous p ­ eoples. Chapter 8 deals explic­itly with social and economic rights, which underlie the politics of in­ equality and fuel twenty-­first-­century ­human rights narratives. Our goal in this book is to offer a concise and comprehensive introduction to ­human rights, as applied to Latin Amer­i­ca. The book is therefore intended for t­ hose interested in both h ­ uman rights and Latin Amer­i­ca; no specialized knowledge of the region is required. It synthesizes much of the existing research, while surveying a broad range of concrete cases and issues.

8 I n t roduc t ion The book is also intended as a resource guide, suggesting related readings, complementary films, and useful websites. Active engagement with material beyond this book—­through films, dramatic firsthand accounts, and organ­izations’ pragmatically designed websites—is essential. Each chapter also contains boxed items, zeroing in on a par­tic­u ­lar issue, actor, document, or firsthand testimony to complement the main text. If h ­ uman rights can be studied from a variety of perspectives, what does it mean to study the “politics” of ­human rights transformation? Po­liti­cal analy­sis often emphasizes the role of power in structuring relations and governance. Po­liti­cal analy­sis is therefore relevant to h ­ uman rights change in at least three ways. First, the state is integral to any discussion of ­human rights, just as it is a central actor in world politics. States, according to international ­human rights law, are responsible both for not violating ­human rights and for protecting citizens whose rights are v­ iolated (even if the perpetrators are private actors). States continue to be violators of ­human rights, but, in recent years, non-­state actors have sometimes surpassed them as threats. Drug cartels, gangs, and criminals kill, torture, and dis­appear ­people; it is the state’s responsibility to protect citizens from ­these violations and to ensure accountability. Second, politics can be essential to the study of ­human rights ­because change and reform always entail strug­gles, often between the state and society. ­These strug­gles are fundamentally po­liti­cal in nature, as groups vie to define the limits of each other’s appropriate be­hav­ior. Third, international po­liti­cal ­factors are crucial for understanding domestic ­human rights change. International actors (­whether states, international organ­izations, multinational corporations, or international nongovernmental organ­izations) apply pressures on states to comply with ­human rights norms and, ­under more sinister circumstances, themselves contribute to repression. The international po­liti­ cal context is thus essential for understanding h ­uman rights practices. Politics and ­human rights go hand in hand. For pragmatists and advocates concerned with improving ­human conditions in the region, relying on po­liti­cal insights is useful only if it clarifies more than it obscures the issues and only if it suggests concrete ave­nues for change. As we think critically about h ­ uman rights concerns, we should therefore keep in mind ­these twin practical goals (i.e., the clarification of complex issues and the formulation of hands-on advice for activists and policy makers). Although firsthand and journalistic accounts often make

I n t roduc t ion 9 for a good read, they do not necessarily offer systematic tools and methods for understanding h ­ uman rights. At the same time, theoretically informed analy­sis can sometimes be divorced from on-­the-­ground practicalities, or real-­world dynamics. Despite the challenges of fusing academic insights with ­human rights realities, we should always remain open to alternative ways of studying ­human rights—­precisely b­ ecause the stakes are so high. The Amer­i­c as comprise thirty-­five countries (including the United States and Canada) that are members of the Organ­ization of American States (OAS). Latin Amer­i­ca refers to the countries in the Amer­i­cas that ­were colonized by Spain, Portugal, and France. Countries in this geographic region share broad commonalities, including experiences with conquest and colonialism as well as a complicated history with the United States. At the same time, just as the region’s landscape is starkly diverse—­ from Mexico’s arid deserts to jungle forests in Central Amer­i­ca and polar caps in southern Chile—­countries in the region show enormous diversity in wealth, social composition, and po­liti­cal trajectories. Despite t­hese divergences, perhaps no other region’s h ­ uman rights story has changed so markedly over time, allowing us to witness dramatic and far-­reaching changes that have not always occurred elsewhere. Though we cannot address e­ very country in the region ­here, we have selected case studies that highlight some of the most impor­tant ­human rights trends in the region and illustrate the lessons social scientists have derived from studying the region. We begin in Chapters 1 and 2 by providing a broad framework for understanding the politics of ­human rights transformation, both why ­human rights violations happen and the key ways in which socie­ties have grappled with the past through transitional justice. We then turn to case studies in four chapters surveying subregions of Latin Amer­i­ca, starting with the Southern Cone, then moving to Central Amer­i­ca and Mexico, the Andean region, and Brazil and the Ca­rib­bean. Chapters 7 and 8 emphasize recent developments in identity-­based movements and assess the state of social and economic rights across the region. In Chapters 9 through 11, we step back to consider patterns and agents of reform, including the role of activist networks and global and regional institutions in promoting ­human rights change. The Conclusion considers the challenges that lie ahead for a region that continues to transform itself. H ­ uman rights abuses

10 I n t roduc t ion ­ ill not dis­appear from Latin Amer­i­ca or from anywhere e­ lse, but rising w awareness and activism can improve individual lives and occasionally lead to dramatic reforms.

Historical Context and Colonial Legacies While this book focuses on the past fifty years, it is wise to keep in mind the colonial roots of ­human rights abuse in the region. ­Human rights violations are closely related to states as po­liti­cal actors, so t­ hese violations can only be understood by examining the historical context in which states formed. In Eu­rope, for example, states ­were forged out of a ­great deal of vio­lence and coercion. In the developing world, the context in which states ­were formed is inextricable from the pro­cess of colonialism. This is certainly true in Latin Amer­i­ca, where t­oday’s ­human rights abuses can be traced to the experience of colonial rule, which left an enduring mark on the region’s states. Attention to this historical context does not exonerate individuals t­ oday for their role in committing ­human rights violations; it merely helps to explain one aspect of a deeply complex phenomenon. The colonial period stretched from the late 1400s to the early 1800s. Though Spain was the dominant colonial power, parts of the region ­were colonized by the Portuguese, British, and ­others. The conquest itself is the most devastating tragedy in Latin Amer­i­ca’s history, as more than sixty-­ five million indigenous lives ­were wiped out through warfare and disease. Eu­ro­pean colonizers then set out to control primarily through “consent” rather than brute force. This required empowering local allies, promoting sentiments of inferiority, and transplanting cultural traditions like Chris­tian­ity and patriarchy. In short, colonialism thrived on ideological domination, an essential component of any repressive system. For t­ hese early invaders, success in conquest was rewarded with en­ comiendas, or large land estates in which indigenous workers w ­ ere forced to give much of their agricultural output to the estate holder. Elsewhere, indigenous workers toiled in mines to extract wealth to be sent back to Spain. And as the indigenous population shrank, enslaved Africans became a new source of ­labor. More than ten million African men, ­women, and ­children ­were brought to the Amer­i­cas between the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries. The vast majority ­were brought to Latin Amer­i­ca, with perhaps 40  ­percent g­ oing to Brazil alone. ­Today, Brazil has the largest Afro-­descendant population of any country in the world outside Africa

I n t roduc t ion 11 itself. More slaves ­were brought to the small island of Cuba than to the United States; and seven times as many slaves w ­ ere brought to Brazil than to the United States. When strug­gles for in­de­pen­dence spread throughout the region in the early 1800s, states a­ dopted the language of liberation and resistance—­ emblazoned in their constitutions and sometimes linked to the abolition of slavery—­but they remained chained to the legacy of colonialism. As one observer notes, “unfinished revolutions” marked the era of state formation.4 Colonial domination ­shaped subsequent repression by leaving several impor­tant legacies: ideological systems of subjugation, shocking in­equality strongly correlated with skin color, militarized politics, and very weak states. ­These new states inherited the idea that men w ­ ere superior to w ­ omen and that race was tied to privilege; thus, indigenous ­people and ­those of African descent, especially ­women, w ­ ere automatically at the bottom of the social ladder. On the economic front, colonialism left in its wake extreme rural-­urban disparities, with marginalized locations relying on noncompetitive subsistence economies that privileged landowners over peasants. Overreliance on goods like cocoa, sugarcane, and the products of mining has continued to limit the region’s economies two centuries ­later. Indeed, Latin Amer­i­ca remains the most eco­nom­ically unequal region in the world. ­These legacies—­ideological and economic—­translated into what would become a familiar pattern of po­liti­cal instability. As liberal governments came to power, they paid lip ser­vice to the ideals of equality, but they also quickly had to confront eco­nom­ically harsh circumstances. Governments in the region also inherited a par­tic­u­lar kind of state: weak in terms of its administrative and revenue-­extracting apparatuses, while overly strong in terms of military power. The latter was itself partly the result of lengthy wars for in­de­pen­dence, which in some cases lasted more than two de­cades, as colonial rulers fought hard to retain their grip on power. In short, the region’s new rulers faced a situation of economic hardship, weak states, strong armies, and deeply engrained social discrimination. Po­liti­cal life was subject to few demo­cratic checks, as patronage politics, corruption, and caudillo rule (with legendary strongmen at the helm of power) became commonplace. The stage was set for new elites to rely on the use of force to maintain order and stability, unleashing a vicious cycle of repression, discrimination, and in­equality, the impact of which can still be felt in the current millennium. The nineteenth and early twentieth

12 I n t roduc t ion centuries witnessed war, with wild swings between democracy and authoritarianism, but also some of the first democracies in the developing world.

Latin Amer­i­ca and the Evolution of International ­Human Rights Norms The historical sketch above might lead observers to won­der how h ­ uman rights norms could take root in the region. Twentieth-­century Latin American history, a­ fter all, also evokes images of military coups, disappearances, death squads, and bloody civil wars. Students of the region ­today are likely to picture flows of mi­grants fleeing corrupt governments, power­ ful drug trafficking organ­izations, and ultraviolent gangs. Accordingly, Latin Amer­i­ca’s relationship with international h ­ uman rights norms is often depicted as a one-­way street; h ­ uman rights norms are treated as external to the region, a product of American and Eu­ro­pean leadership, significant to Latin Amer­i­ca (and the rest of the developing world) only insofar as governments comply with and enforce ­human rights or not. While this characterization is understandable, it is vastly incomplete and misleading. Latin Amer­i­ca has contributed uniquely to the evolution of international h ­ uman rights norms. Th ­ ese influences may not be widely known, but their legacy is fundamental. Three historical developments deserve par­tic­u­lar consideration: (1) philosophically, con­temporary notions of ­human equality and the rights of indigenous p ­ eople are rooted in Bartolomé de las Casas’s influence during the sixteenth ­century; (2) institutionally, national constitutions across the region, beginning with Mexico’s revolutionary 1917 constitution, catapulted economic and social rights onto the world stage; and (3) po­liti­cally, Latin Americans played a crucial role in the emergence of international ­human rights institutions in the 1940s, helping to place ­human rights norms on the global agenda and to craft key international l­egal documents.

Bartolomé de las Casas A Spanish friar during the sixteenth-­century conquest of the Amer­i­cas, Bartolomé de las Casas left an indelible if controversial imprint on con­ temporary notions of h ­ uman rights. Las Casas is in­ter­est­ing partly ­because he was not always fully committed to h ­ uman equality. Although he participated in the conquest, he was moved by the slaughter, enslavement, and mistreatment of indigenous groups. This led him to advocate vigorously,

I n t roduc t ion 13 impressively ahead of his time, for the equal treatment of indigenous groups. In a sense, he was the region’s first ­human rights advocate, writing extensively about the plight of the Indians, who he deemed equal to other ­human beings given their capacity to reason. He traveled the region widely, spreading his message; and he argued passionately before the royal court in Spain for the liberation of all Indians, a step that he put into practice by freeing his own servants. Las Casas’s positions as they relate to h ­ uman rights, however, w ­ ere imperfect and inconsistent, which has made him somewhat controversial ­today. For example, the Spanish cleric’s opposition to slavery did not extend initially to Africans, a position he adjusted only in his old age. Nor did he oppose the use of repression, including torture, against heretics in Spain. Despite ­these serious prob­lems, Las Casas’s writings and work w ­ ere critical in advancing notions of ­human equality, as applied to indigenous ­peoples in Spanish Amer­i­ca. Scholars recently have observed, therefore, that while he cannot fairly be credited with developing the idea of ­human rights (that is, rights held by individuals), Las Casas was one of the first p ­ eople 5 in history to advance the idea of group rights. He was also the first archbishop of Chiapas, the predominantly indigenous region in southern Mexico that has attracted global attention in recent de­cades with the massacre of peasants and the rise of the Zapatista movement, which we ­will discuss in Chapter 4. The leading ­human rights organ­ization in the heart of Chiapas, a way station for activists from around the world, still carries the sixteenth-­century advocate’s name: Fray Bartolomé de las Casas ­Human Rights Center. UP CLOSE: BARTOLOMÉ DE LAS CASAS, SIXTEENTH-­CENTURY ADVOCATE “The entire ­human race is one; all men are alike with re­spect to their creation and the ­things of nature, and none is born already taught. And so we all have the need, from the beginning, to be guided and helped by ­those who have been born ­earlier.” (Apol­o­getic History, Chapter 48) “By what right or justice do you hold t­ hese Indians in such cruel and horrible servitude? On what authority have you waged such detestable wars against t­ hese p ­ eoples, who dwelt quietly and peacefully on their own land? Wars in which you have destroyed such infinite numbers of them by hom­i­cides and slaughters never before heard of? Why do you

14 I n t roduc t ion keep them so oppressed and exhausted, without giving them enough to eat or curing them of the sicknesses they incur from the excessive ­labor you give them, and they die, or rather, you kill them, in order to extract and acquire gold e­ very day?” (History of the Indies, Book III) Source: For a basic se­lection of Bartolomé de las Casas’s writings, see Witness: Writings of Bartolomé de las Casas, ed. George Sanderlin (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis, 1992).

Pathbreaking National Constitutions The region has also been essential in elevating the profile of economic and social rights, especially through its national constitutions. As in­de­pen­dence came to most countries of the region in the nineteenth c­ entury, newly formed postcolonial governments turned to Eu­ro­pean Enlightenment thinking, the French Declaration on the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, and, to a lesser degree, the U.S. constitutional model of rights.6 Most of the region’s constitutions therefore incorporated notions of individual rights and liberties apart from t­ hose of the state (following its northern neighbor) alongside an emphasis on equality and citizen duties (borrowing from continental Eu­rope). Simón Bolívar, the talented Venezuelan general who helped liberate five South American countries and draft some of the region’s constitutions, embodied this hybrid constitutional approach to rights: He upheld rights to liberty, equality, and private property; condemned slavery as a “shameless violation of h ­ uman dignity”; and promoted active government involvement in securing rights.7 This model ­shaped constitution ­after constitution in the region for more than a c­ entury. Whereas Latin American countries during the first c­ entury of in­de­pen­ dence incorporated civil rights and duties drawn from vari­ous constitutional traditions, Costa Rica’s constitution of 1840 also included the right to education. And at the beginning of the twentieth c­ entury, Latin American constitutions began to embrace economic and social rights. Mexico’s revolutionary constitution of 1917 (still in effect t­oday) was a watershed for constitutional development around the world. For the first time, a national constitution emphasized ­labor rights, social security, and fair working conditions, setting the stage for including them in new constitutions throughout the region and beyond. By incorporating economic and social rights

I n t roduc t ion 15 alongside civil and po­liti­cal rights, Latin American constitutions played a key role in legitimating both sets of rights. The region’s national constitutions ­were nothing short of pathbreaking. Following in the tradition of Bartolomé de las Casas and indigenous influences, they acknowledged the importance of group rights beyond individual rights. The region’s early constitutions ­were also innovative in fusing notions of rights and duties, which in turn influenced constitutions across the developing world. Just as Latin Amer­i­ca’s early constitutions imported and combined foreign constitutional insights, they also played a crucial role in advancing new ­human rights ideas: the importance of groups, such as minorities and indigenous ­people, not just individuals; the complementary nature of rights and duties; and the fundamental significance of economic and social rights, beyond traditional civil and po­liti­cal rights. Between the conquest of the Amer­i­cas and the emergence of national constitutions, ­there ­were three centuries of colonial rule. This period of colonialism did not make a positive impact on the evolution of international ­human rights norms. Rather, in the ­human rights story, colonialism is more closely tied to a long trail of abuse throughout the region. While ­human rights violations in the second half of the twentieth ­century could trace their historical roots to colonialism, the g­ reat irony is that t­ hese same abuses would be challenged by a set of internationally recognized norms, which Latin Americans themselves helped draft a­ fter World War II.

Leadership at the United Nations The origins of the con­temporary international h ­ uman rights system are commonly traced to the Universal Declaration of H ­ uman Rights in April 1948. Far less is known, however, about the contribution of Latin American states to this key moment in the history of ­human rights. Perhaps most dramatically, the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man came into existence a full six months before the UDHR. Four years e­ arlier, at a regional conference in Mexico City, in 1944, the need for such an international declaration was already discussed. And in 1946, six Latin American countries ­were joined by the United States to support collective intervention on behalf of democracy and h ­ uman rights. Even if individual states had ulterior motives for promoting universal ­human rights, the region’s proposals ­were unique and significant in global terms. One scholar has gone as far as to suggest that “Latin American diplomats,

16 I n t roduc t ion documents, and traditions had such a profound influence upon both the decision to include ­human rights protection among the purposes of the UN, and the content of the Universal Declaration, that it is fair to refer to Latin Amer­i­ca as the forgotten crucible of the universal ­human rights idea.”8 The most direct influence that Latin American countries had on international h ­ uman rights norms was in drafting the UN Charter and, subsequently, the UDHR. As early as 1938, the Inter-­A merican Conference (pre­de­ces­sor to the Organ­ization of American States) ­adopted a “Declaration in Defense of ­Human Rights.” At the end of World War II, at the April 1945 San Francisco meeting charged with completing the UN Charter, fifty countries w ­ ere represented. Most developing countries w ­ ere still colonized and so not represented, but representatives of twenty Latin American countries pushed for h ­ uman rights to play a prominent role in the charter. As one scholar writes, “Without Latin American protagonism, it is unlikely that the Charter would have contained references to h ­ uman rights.”9 In addition to establishing the promotion and protection of ­human rights as central goals of the postwar international architecture, the UN Charter established a h ­ uman rights commission charged with drafting formal international h ­ uman rights norms. Eleanor Roo­se­velt headed this eighteen-­person commission, which also included three delegates from Latin American countries (Chile, Uruguay, and Panama). In attempting to reconcile cultural and other differences, the commission called for a proposed bill of rights. The models submitted by Chile and Panama quickly became the dominant ones considered, and Chile’s proposal became the basis of the 1948 American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man. In turn, the American Declaration “heavi­ly influenced the drafting pro­ cess and product of the universal [declaration].”10 Part of the appeal of the Latin American proposals was that they resonated globally, beyond Western socie­ties. The proposals attempted to identify similarities in h ­ uman rights norms across a broad range of cultures and polities. Thus, Latin Amer­i­ca’s proposal regarding economic, social, and cultural rights made its way quite directly into the first draft of the Universal Declaration. Once the first draft was complete, the UN H ­ uman Rights Commission created a three-­person subcommittee to finalize the ­human rights declaration, one of whose members was Chilean Hernán Santa Cruz—­a passionate advocate of the international importance of economic and social rights.

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FIGURE  1. Eleanor Roo­se­velt, chair of the United Nations ­Human Rights Commission, with representatives of the Dominican Republic (Minerva Bernardino, on the left) and Chile (Ana Figueroa) in 1949. UN Photo/MB.

In a crucial meeting in the fall of 1948 before a fifty-­eight-­person UN body, leading up to the final General Assembly vote on the UDHR, Latin American delegates made essential contributions. Perhaps most notably, the Dominican Republic’s representative got the preamble amended to ascribe ­human rights to both men and w ­ omen. Other representatives from the region w ­ ere responsible for the Declaration’s references to the needs of f­ amily, protection from arbitrary exile, and the right to ­legal remedy for ­human rights violations. All told, Latin American countries played a much more consequential role in the development of international ­human rights norms than is commonly assumed. In addition to the historical influences sketched above, the region has also contributed pivotally in recent years to international ­human rights law. It has been most influential in codifying specific civil and po­liti­cal rights, especially norms about disappearance and the right to democracy. With disappearances featuring prominently in the region’s

18 I n t roduc t ion violations from the 1960s through the 1980s, the first treaty addressing freedom from disappearances entered into force in Latin Amer­i­ca in 1996. Perhaps more far-­reaching is the Inter-­A merican Demo­cratic Charter of 2001, the first international instrument focused on a h ­ uman right to democracy. For all the vio­lence that has characterized the region, Latin American countries have long contributed in uniquely impor­tant, if largely forgotten, ways to the evolution of international h ­ uman rights standards. As Amnesty International’s 2008 annual report (The State of the World’s ­Human Rights) recognized, “If h ­ uman rights are t­ oday at the heart of the UN proj­ect, it is in large part thanks to the efforts of Latin American countries.”11 Latin American leadership in ­human rights continues ­today, as subsequent chapters detail, on issues ranging from transgender rights to transitional justice.

Latin Amer­i­ca at the Forefront of Global ­Human Rights Latin Amer­i­ca’s central role in the history of ­human rights illustrates the dynamics of transformation. In the following chapters, we w ­ ill examine the role of Latin American states and activists in promoting mechanisms for expanding and protecting h ­ uman rights that w ­ ere egregiously abused. Some scholars go so far as to locate Latin Amer­i­ca as the epicenter of the emergence of global ­human rights politics in the 1970s. It was in response to horrific ­human rights abuses in Latin Amer­i­ca in the 1970s that activists ­there and internationally developed the repertoire of strategies that define con­temporary ­human rights campaigns. It was in the strug­gle to find a way to combat repression in Latin Amer­i­ca that nongovernmental organ­ izations (NGOs) like Amnesty International and international organ­izations like the United Nations built the capacity to effectively promote ­human rights around the world. The region has also been an incubator for new ideas that have spread to other regions of the world, particularly in the field of transitional justice. And ­after transitions to democracy occurred across the region, Latin American countries a­ dopted new constitutions in the 1990s that again expanded our understanding of which rights deserve constitutional protections—­including the rights of indigenous p ­ eople and ­women. In recent years, Latin Americans have pushed for new international ­human rights laws and have led key global institutions like the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for H ­ uman Rights (OHCHR). For all ­these reasons and more, the

I n t roduc t ion 19 strug­gle for ­human rights in Latin Amer­i­ca is intertwined with the strug­ gle for h ­ uman rights everywhere. Discussion Questions 1. Are you surprised by any of the rights advanced in the Universal Declaration of ­Human Rights (­Table 1)? Compare them with the rights advanced in the American Convention on ­Human Rights (available online). 2. Does a hierarchy of ­human rights exist? Which ­human rights norms should be at the top of the list? What criteria should be used to determine this? 3. What do you find most in­ter­est­ing about the region’s contributions to international h ­ uman rights norms? 4. Is it better to study regions on their own, compare them with other areas of the world, or use a dif­fer­ent category of analy­sis altogether (e.g., individual countries)? Explain. 5. What are the multiple ways in which colonial legacies have ­shaped con­ temporary ­human rights violations?

Resources Additional Reading John Charles Chasteen, Born in Blood and Fire: A Concise History of Latin Amer­i­ca, 4th ed. (New York: Norton, 2016). Concise and highly accessible history of Latin Amer­i­ca, tracing the impact of conquest and colonization on con­temporary dynamics. Andrew Clapham, ­Human Rights: A Very Short Introduction, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016). Brief but comprehensive introduction to the study of ­human rights. Edward Cleary, Mobilizing for H ­ uman Rights in Latin Amer­i­ca (Bloomfield, Conn.: Kumarian Press, 2007). Places con­temporary ­human rights movements within the context of the region’s unique contributions historically. Jack Donnelly and Daniel Whelan, International H ­ uman Rights, 5th ed. (Routledge, 2017); David P. Forsythe, ­Human Rights in International Relations, 4th ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017); and Michael Goodhart, ed., ­Human Rights: Politics and Practice, 3rd ed. (London: Oxford University Press, 2016). Three of the principal introductory h ­ uman rights textbooks. ­Human Rights Quarterly. The leading interdisciplinary journal focused on ­human rights issues, often addressing regional topics. Micheline Ishay, The History of H ­ uman Rights: From Ancient Times to the Globalization Era (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004).

20 I n t roduc t ion Broad introductory survey of the historical evolution of h ­ uman rights norms, of interest to any student of h ­ uman rights. Todd Landman, Studying ­Human Rights (New York: Routledge, 2006). Concise introduction to social science approaches to ­human rights prob­lems. Useful Websites Derechos humanos en amer­i­c a latina. Internet-­based international organ­ ization providing information about ­human rights issues around the world, with extensive resources specific to Latin Amer­i­ca. www​.­derechos​.­org. Inter-­A merican Institute of H ­ uman Rights (IIHR). Created in 1980, the IIHR is the region’s leading teaching, research, and documentation center for ­human rights—­a wealth of information by themes and countries, much of it in Spanish. www​.­iidh​.­ed​.­cr. Latin American Network Information Center (LANIC). Website addressing nearly ­every topic imaginable on Latin Amer­i­c a; includes regional and country-­specific resources for h ­ uman rights, as well as direct links to the region’s newspapers and other media outlets. http://­lanic​.­utexas​.­edu. Po­liti­cal Database of the Amer­i­cas. Easy-­to-­navigate database with access to basic po­liti­cal data (e.g., constitutions, elections, and civil society organ­ izations) for individual Latin American countries. http://­pdba​.­georgetown​ .­edu. University of Minnesota H ­ uman Rights Library. One of the world’s most extensive online collections of h ­ uman rights material, including regional resources. www1​.­umn​.­edu​/­humanrts.


Legacies of Abuse

1 Why ­Human Rights Abuses Occur


uman rights violations do not just happen. They reflect par­tic­u ­lar choices made by specific individuals. Despite their frequency, both in Latin Amer­i­ca and around the world, t­ hese choices can appear quite puzzling—­and often make us won­der how such t­ hings can be pos­si­ble or how violators can feel justified in their actions. What leads certain individuals to inflict unimaginable pain and suffering on o­ thers? Why do neighbors and former classmates torture and sexually abuse p ­ eople they used to run into at their local grocer? How do ­people decide to mutilate bodies or throw them from he­li­cop­ters into the sea? While this book cannot offer any definitive answers to ­these difficult questions, it summarizes the leading explanations for h ­ uman rights violations and lets readers judge the merits—­and limits—of existing research. It gives us a framework for approaching the concrete cases of abuse explored in the chapters ahead.

The Conventional Wisdom Assumptions about why rights are v­ iolated ­matter. They shape the actions taken by advocates, policy makers, scholars, and citizen-­voters. Indeed, any effort to improve h ­ uman rights conditions is guided, at least implicitly, by assumptions about why abuses occur. Before turning to explanations from the social sciences, it is therefore necessary to consider conventional responses to the question “why are h ­ uman rights v­ iolated?” Three views are particularly popu­lar, informing many ­people’s assumptions about the roots


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of abuse: the animosity assumption, the evil assumption; and the cultural assumption. The animosity assumption. “They ­can’t get along.” This view ascribes ­violations to a natu­ral and long-­standing (if not primordial) hatred among ­people who appear to be dif­fer­ent. Such hatred thrives on categorizing ­people into mutually exclusive categories: communists and noncommunists; indigenous ­peoples or Afro-­descendants and ­those of Eu­ro­pean ancestry; rich and poor; homosexual ­people and straight ­people; immigrants and citizens; terrorists and victims. When p ­ eople are divided into so-­called in-­groups and out-­groups, the stage is set for mistreatment and abuse. The animosity assumption, often held by apologists for violating rights, generally implies that violations ­will occur as long as competing groups interact. Accordingly, governments may portray h ­ uman rights abuses as necessary responses to social or ethnic conflict. They may blame, in par­tic­u­lar, minority groups who engage in militant activism, accusing them of triggering broader hostilities. Some variants of this argument advocate separating groups of p ­ eople (such as indigenous groups) or making them get along (forced assimilation of refugees, for example). Th ­ ose who buy into this perspective often excuse ­human rights violations, seeing them as natu­ral responses to conflicting social identities.1 The evil assumption. “The perpetrators are evil.” According to this view, ­human rights are ­violated ­because s­ ome people are inherently evil. A witness to Chile’s truth commission expressed this popu­lar sentiment: “It’s frightening to think that you are as h ­ uman as they are. Where could such evil come 2 from?” When confronted with disturbing images of h ­ uman rights abuse, it is tempting to distance ourselves from atrocities by attributing them to evil in o­ thers. This perspective is sometimes related to a “natu­ral rights” view, especially one assuming that rights are divine (or God-­given) in origin. If h ­ uman rights are sacred, literally, then violations are more likely to be seen as arising from evil. Even ­those who do not approach ­human rights religiously may think of ­human rights work in good-­versus-­evil terms, with ­human rights taking on the traits of a secular religion and abuses necessarily reflecting evil. Taken one step further, the assumption is that h ­ uman rights violations ­will vary in intensity depending on the degree to which individual perpetrators are evil. This implies that notorious dictators like Chile’s Augusto Pinochet Ugarte or Guatemala’s Efraín Ríos Montt w ­ ere especially

Why H ­ u m a n R ig h t s A bus e s O c c u r 25

perverse, sadistic, and diabolical. Broader structural conditions are insignificant compared to individual malevolence. Focusing on the intrinsically evil nature of ­human beings is a highly pessimistic view, since it holds that evil—­a nd therefore h ­ uman rights violations—­can never be entirely eradicated.3 The cultural assumption. “It’s their culture.” Of the three conventional assumptions, this may be the most commonly invoked in discussions of ­human rights in Latin Amer­i­ca. Rather than focusing on the traits of individuals or par­tic­u­lar groups, this view emphasizes broader cultural characteristics. It assumes that socie­ties share overall traits, which make ­human rights violations more or less likely. Examples of this include assuming that Latin American culture is prone to vio­lence and that the abuse of ­women reflects a society in which machismo is commonplace. Like most ste­reo­ types, cultural explanations of h ­ uman rights can seem appealing b­ ecause of their simplicity. Cultural ste­reo­t ypes explain h ­ uman rights practices largely in terms of values, attitudes, and traditions. For instance, some observers believe that Latin Amer­i­ca has a distinctive “Latin po­liti­cal culture”—­including an engrained tradition of authoritarianism and corruption—­that inhibits democracy, development, and re­spect for ­human rights.4 Some have extended this argument, warning about the dangers of Hispanic immigration to the United States; the fear is that Latinx culture (which purportedly does not value individual rights, for example) threatens prevailing Anglo-­Protestant values.5 Proponents of a cultural perspective tend to focus on what they perceive to be the root cause of the region’s con­temporary prob­lems. Consequently, they are not interested in why cultural patterns have emerged historically, how many Latin Americans actually share ­these traits, or what ­else might explain ­human rights abuses. Whereas a “strong” version of this assumption would not expect cultural norms to change much, a “weaker” version might support resocialization efforts, or attempts to gradually replace “backward” cultural norms. ­These three positions adopt a static and homogeneous view of social groups, individuals, and regions, respectively. On the face of it, ­these positions may seem persuasive. They are, ­after all, nearly impossible to disprove, since support for them is evident only ­after violations have occurred. What they cannot account for, however, is the enormous diversity within social groups, among individuals, and throughout a region. And if


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social animosity, ­human evil, and cultural traits are relatively unchanging characteristics, why do h ­ uman rights abuses break out during some periods more than o­ thers? As long as t­hese basic questions remain unanswered, we need to explore alternative explanations.

Insights from Social Science ­ uman rights research offers vari­ous leads to explain why violations occur H in a world where rights abuses are expressly outlawed. Social science explanations tend to emphasize two types of argument: decision-­making approaches and ideological ones. Decision-­making approaches assume that leaders are rational actors who essentially undertake cost-­benefit calculations when choosing ­whether to violate ­human rights. Accordingly, scholars have found evidence that certain f­ actors increase the benefits of violating ­human rights: war, poverty, the absence of democracy, and domestic threats to a regime. Where ­these ­factors are pre­sent, states are more likely to violate internationally recognized ­human rights. Ideological ­factors, by contrast, focus on the broader, nonmaterial context that makes violations acceptable. Researchers note, for example, the role of anti-­communism, national security doctrines, racism and sexism, economic ideologies, and patriarchy. Not surprisingly, scholars increasingly recognize that both decision making and ideology may be necessary for explaining violations. The German phi­los­o­pher Hannah Arendt, in observing the Holocaust, famously referred to the “banality of evil”: not the banality of the genocide but the commonplace nature of the individuals responsible for executing it. Perpetrators of ­human rights abuse, she suggested, are no more evil than anyone e­ lse; they are simply unthinking individuals operating in an environment that encourages vio­lence. The ­factors identified in social science research represent in some ways the structural conditions that push and shove seemingly ordinary ­people to commit or condone atrocious acts.

Decision-­Making ­Factors Of all the f­ actors known to increase the likelihood that h ­ uman rights violations ­will occur, war is among the strongest. Statistical studies have shown that the incidence of war is highly correlated with the onset of h ­ uman rights abuses. This has been found to be true even when other potential variables are taken into account and controlled for statistically.

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This is not all that surprising. Both international and civil wars involve the use of force against enemies. The stakes are high in war, and exceptional times often lead both state and non-­state actors who have taken up arms to act outside the strictures of international law. Even before the twentieth-­century rise of international h ­ uman rights norms, wars fought over in­de­pen­dence, border demarcations, or natu­ral resources in Latin Amer­i­ca and elsewhere have involved the repression of civilians. This is precisely why international humanitarian laws, as enshrined in the Geneva Conventions and supported by the International Committee of the Red Cross, exist: to set guidelines for humane conduct during war. In the Latin American context, the role of war seems to be highly relevant, if incomplete. Countries that have had full-­blown armed conflicts—El Salvador, Guatemala, Colombia, and Peru—­also experienced an i­ nordinately high level of ­human rights violations. Interestingly, moreover, even when countries ­were not technically at war, leaders across the region have often used the language of war (meta­phor­ically) to justify the suspension of ­human rights. Yet despite the obvious significance of war, it is also true that egregious ­human rights violations often occur outside the context of war. Chile and Argentina w ­ ere notorious h ­ uman rights violators in the 1970s, for example, in the absence of civil or international war. A much fuller exploration of other f­ actors is clearly required. While poverty can be an indicator that economic and social rights are being abused, it can also be a cause of other ­human rights violations. Researchers have found that higher levels of poverty, in par­tic­u­lar, are associated with greater violations of physical integrity, such as torture and disappearances. This too may seem not all that surprising. When countries are poor, governments seeking to maintain stability (and retain power) may respond to intractable social demands with repression and vio­lence instead of with resources and opportunities. Certainly, ­there is something at least partly compelling about this argument. The countries that perhaps most ­people associate with egregious ­human rights violations tend to be relatively poor. This is true of countries like Haiti and Guatemala, which are among the region’s poorest. Some critics caution, however, that focusing on poverty alone obscures more impor­ tant questions, such as why countries are poor in the first place and why ­human rights violations are not identical across poor countries. Perhaps this is why research shows that although poverty is associated with personal-­ integrity violations, this is not a particularly strong relationship. Bolivia,


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FIGURE 2. Police intimidation of protesters holding a banner denouncing poverty in Argentina, during a massive march in May 2019. Carol Smiljan/NurPhoto via Getty Images.

for example, is relatively poor in the region and, while it has certainly experienced h ­ uman rights violations, ­these are not comparable in scope to ­those of Haiti or Guatemala. The effects of poverty may therefore be more indirect, as governments in poor countries face higher demands that they cannot meet. How governments respond to poverty or economic crises, nonetheless, still begs for an answer. Socioeconomic in­equality may be a more impor­tant risk f­actor for ­human rights violations than poverty. Socie­ties that are highly unequal—­ socie­ties in which stark in­equality exists between social groups (such as racial or ethnic groups)—­are more likely to suffer armed conflict and ­human rights violations. Indeed, Latin Amer­i­ca remains the world’s most socioeco­ nom­ically unequal region. Much of the civil strife in the region has therefore pitted ­those demanding socioeconomic change against ­those defending a status quo that benefited them financially and personally. Not surprisingly, a strong relationship is known to exist between the lack of democracy and ­human rights violations. It is almost a truism to say that nondemo­cratic countries are more likely than demo­cratic countries to violate h ­ uman rights norms. Several explanations exist for this.

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Democracy is a type of regime that reflects a par­tic­u­lar configuration of state-­society interaction and a specific set of norms. Democracies are structured so that in princi­ple societal interests are represented; the assumption is that most ­people w ­ ill not support widespread repression. Democracies also tend to resolve conflicts peacefully or legally. In contrast, in less demo­ cratic regimes, societal opposition to ­human rights violations ­will not be voiced as openly, let alone shape government decision making, since leaders are not beholden to a popu­lar constituency. In nondemo­cratic regimes, only the most power­f ul members of society, including the coercive apparatus and economic elites, have access to decision makers. A vicious cycle ensues, as the institutions of governance block social opposition but privilege power­ful actors who support coercion as a way of maintaining their own standing. Two caveats are in order. First, some scholars emphasize that democracy is a ­matter of degree, since all regimes are “more” or “less” demo­cratic. This implies that h ­ uman rights violations can occur u ­ nder any type of regime, including established democracies; ­after all, ­human rights abuses persist even ­after transitions to democracy, and violations can exist in long-­ standing democracies. ­Human rights abuses are therefore a ­matter of degree; less demo­cratic regimes w ­ ill engage in relatively more h ­ uman rights violations (e.g., the number of victims ­will tend to be much greater or the abuses more egregious). The second caveat is that the pro­cess of democ­ratization itself can be fraught with instability. As states de­moc­ra­tize, members and allies of the former regime attempt to retain control while competing sets of interests collide. ­W hether international actors should impose democ­ratization is subject to much dispute, as in the case of Haiti. A demo­cratic transition does not necessarily signal full h ­ uman rights protection, as h ­ uman rights abuses continue and accountability mechanisms remain weak. Though several case studies in this book clearly support the link between democracy and ­human rights (as in Chile and Argentina), we w ­ ill examine cases in which democracy decays, reverting to authoritarianism (as in Venezuela and Peru) and where ­human rights abuses remain high even ­under demo­cratically elected governments (as in Colombia). This means that we must think deeply about the quality of democracy as a political-­institutional explanation for why ­human rights violations vary across similarly developed countries. If the above ­factors indirectly influence decision makers’ calculations about violating ­human rights, security threats directly alter a leader’s


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assessment of the costs and benefits of initiating repression. Security threats occur when apparent challenges exist to national survival or identity. In practice, many scholars have interpreted this to mean armed attacks against a state, w ­ hether by other states or by non-­state actors. O ­ thers have focused attention on broader perceived threats, including the role of domestic protests. For example, police responded with vio­lence to poor ­people rioting in Haiti—­where 80 ­percent of the population lives on less than two dollars per day—­after soaring global prices in summer 2008 made basic food staples unaffordable.6 When groups publicly oppose the existing po­liti­cal order, authorities are more likely to label them security threats and violate their basic h ­ uman rights. While government responses to protests may depend on the overall po­ liti­cal context, security threats involving the use of armed force tend to elicit violent reactions on the part of many if not most states. Since states are partly defined by their mono­poly over the legitimate use of force in a given territory, as German sociologist Max Weber first contended, it is unsurprising that leaders would seek to defend this basic attribute of the modern state. Most leaders ­will calculate that when national security is at stake, it pays to violate personal security. The evidence throughout Latin Amer­i­ca strongly supports the claim that security threats are tied to ­human rights violations. Many spikes in ­human rights violations have occurred in the aftermath of guerrilla attacks or public appearances by armed groups. For example, General Ríos Montt of Guatemala launched a savage campaign in 1982, following the public resurgence of armed insurgents the previous year. The notorious violations that occurred in Argentina in the 1970s ­were partly responses to the apparent threat posed by extremist groups like the Montoneros and the ERP (­People’s Revolutionary Army). In Chile, interestingly, ­human rights violations reignited in the early 1980s, just as armed groups resurfaced and domestic protests intensified significantly. In the 1990s, the Mexican government did not hesitate to respond to the rise of Zapatista rebels with widespread repression, just as Peru’s Shining Path provoked the fury of the state apparatus. Vio­lence and abuse in Colombia has also mirrored the dynamics of armed guerrilla groups. Acknowledging that a link exists between armed groups and ­human rights violations, however, does not justify the use of force or exonerate state vio­lence. Security threats often prompted the armed forces’ direct intervention in politics, most obviously through military coups but other times through

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coercion directed by demo­cratically elected leaders. The most impor­tant variable linking how states in the region responded to security threats was the institutional power of the armed forces. The military, which played such a crucial role in liberating Latin Amer­i­ca from colonialism, retained public re­spect and a self-­image as the guardian of the state. As Brian Loveman writes, it was “in effect, a fourth branch of government.”7 If an armed group threatened national security, the armed forces w ­ ere quick to justify vast expansions of military power to defend la patria (the fatherland). This was a power­ful rationale, even if military authoritarianism almost always meant devastation for h ­ uman rights. Indeed, the relationship between security threats and ­human rights violations is not at all straightforward. Rather than security threats leading to violations, p ­ eople may protest and take up arms against the state largely in response to violation of their rights. Even if social protest is partly a response to h ­ uman rights abuses, security threats very often trigger new rights violations. Likewise, arguments that emphasize security threats disturb some p ­ eople b­ ecause they sound too much like the arguments made by abusive governments: “We had to do it.” It is true that security threats rarely threaten a state objectively, since armed groups tend to be smaller than states and could be controlled through standard ave­nues of law enforcement. As discussed in the next section, this is precisely why the ideological context is impor­tant; it defines what constitutes a threat in the first place. All told, security threats are the excuse that governments use most often to rationalize, to themselves and to o­ thers, vio­lence against society. In the twenty-­first ­century, non-­state actors like Central American gangs and Mexican drug trafficking organ­izations may represent an even greater threat to physical integrity than the governments in t­hose countries. Most social science research on ­human rights focuses on the role of the state, but ­there is a growing need to grapple with ­human rights abuses committed by non-­state actors. Criminality is surely fueled by the profit motive, and drug trafficking and extortion are profitable enterprises. The rise of transnational criminal organ­izations and states’ responses to them are deeply consequential, if poorly understood, determinants of ­human rights abuse. The research reviewed so far shows how decision makers face certain material conditions (war, poverty, the lack of democracy, security threats) that make violating ­human rights relatively desirable. ­These conditions place at risk two fundamental and related goals that most leaders share: to


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reduce instability and to retain power. When t­hese goals are threatened, states are likely to violate h ­ uman rights norms. What remains unclear is why engaging in repression is deemed an appropriate response to domestic instability. The choice to violate h ­ uman rights can be particularly perplexing since other v­ iable responses often exist, and violations can elicit global opprobrium. This is where the role of ideology enters the picture.

Ideologies and Repression If domestic instability triggers h ­ uman rights violations, it may well be ­because of exclusionary ideologies. Exclusionary ideologies are systems of belief that justify the use of vio­lence or discrimination against certain ­people or u ­ nder specific situations; t­ hese ideologies exclude p ­ eople from basic ­human rights protections. Examples of exclusionary ideologies that underlie h ­ uman rights abuses include anti-­communism, racism, bigotry, sexism, national security doctrine, neoliberal economic orthodoxy, impunity, and anti-­terrorism. ­These ideologies serve to label categories of ­people as “outsiders” or enemies; from t­here, the slippery slope to dehumanization follows easily. In some cases, discussed below, exclusionary ideologies are institutionalized so that their transmission occurs through regular channels like the professional training of security or police forces. In other cases, their influence is much more diffuse and subtle, though perhaps no less power­ful. The most obvious exclusionary ideologies that have ­shaped h ­ uman rights events in the region relate to anti-­communism and national security. Much has been written elsewhere about the ideological strug­gle that characterized the Cold War, a world divided largely into two blocs, one upheld by the United States as a superpower and the other by the Soviet Union as a superpower. Latin Amer­i­ca, of course, was not the only battleground during the Cold War; but as the closest region to the United States, the stakes ­were deemed high on all sides. Particularly ­after the Cuban Revolution in 1959, the United States moved even more aggressively to root out communist influence in the region. Similar dynamics, propelled by the Sandinista takeover of Nicaragua in 1980, help to explain the Reagan administration’s interventions in the region. Miniature cold wars played out within individual countries, as groups on the right and left of the po­liti­cal spectrum confronted one another, sometimes in armed conflict. Closely related to anti-­communism, the doctrine of national security was developed and transmitted throughout the region during the Cold War.

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The national security doctrine was a virulent ideology developed in the United States in the 1950s that defined a state’s security in terms of containing communism. Any person suspected of potentially supporting or sympathizing with leftist ideas was to be eradicated from society. This goal was considered so valuable that any means could be used to ensure a society ­free of communist interference. Personal security could be sacrificed for national security. In practice, ­these ideas ­were transmitted mostly through military training; in this way, members of a country’s security forces learned repressive means to respond to the threat of domestic insurgents or “subversives.” Po­liti­cal opponents ­were redefined as vital threats to national security. They ­were labeled enemies, in an internal war where freedom, Western civilization, and Christian values w ­ ere pitted against a totalitarian, non-­Western, and atheistic communist ­future. In this manner, national security ideology defined enemies and legitimated h ­ uman rights violations in the name of a higher national ethos. Despite international pressures to create national security states during the Cold War, especially in response to armed insurgents, it would be a ­mistake to overlook the fact that national security ideology resonated with certain intellectual strains and historical experiences in Latin Amer­ i­ca. Latin American constitutions had always left the door open for the suspension of personal rights during times of exceptional threat to the homeland. And just as Enlightenment ideas about the importance of rights influenced early state formation in the region, the dominant Catholicism under­lying colonialism promoted notions of an organic state, whose health depended on the integrity of the nation. In this context, state leaders late in the twentieth ­century described po­liti­cal opponents as “cancers” to be extirpated from the body politic. Historically, the protracted nature of in­de­pen­dence in Latin Amer­i­ca had forged militaries that came to view themselves as key actors guaranteeing domestic po­liti­cal stability and order. National security ideology was transmitted through military training within the context of the Cold War, but the idea resonated strongly with the region’s basic l­egal frameworks and the historical experience of its armed forces. In recent years, national security ideology has sometimes found new life in anti-­terrorism. Anti-­terrorism was a corollary of ­earlier national security doctrines that targeted insurgents and guerrilla movements. Then and now, in Latin Amer­i­ca and the United States, the overriding notion is that the rights of suspected terrorists should be suspended. The label


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“terrorist” is significant, denoting a person who is an ­enemy of the nation-­ state and therefore a threat to national security and identity. This labeling has impor­tant implications for anti-­terrorism as an ideology. A “war on terrorism” necessitates a climate of exceptionalism; that is, given the potentially high risks for national security, proponents argue that governments must be permitted to break existing laws, including laws protecting h ­ uman rights. Arbitrary detentions, harsh interrogations, and even torture are fair game. A similar dynamic has taken hold in countries with high crime rates associated with the U.S.-­led “war on drugs.” Politicians in Central Amer­ i­ca, for example, have ­adopted mano dura (“iron-­fist”) responses to crime that encourage militarized police to use any means necessary to fight gangs and o­ thers perceived as criminal. In El Salvador, cops have been known to brag on WhatsApp about how many “rats” they “eliminated” on any given night, a power­ful reminder of the role of language in dehumanization—­ these are, a­ fter all, ­human beings, often teen­a gers, who have not been proven guilty in a court of law.8 During the Cold War, it was easy to justify state killings by associating victims with communism; ­today, a sense that ­those killed by police must have done something criminal to deserve that end is reinforcing impunity. Economic ideology also shapes ­human rights violations. In par­tic­u­lar, neoliberal economic ideas exerted their most vis­i­ble influence in the 1990s, though their reach extended back to the 1970s and continues to this day ­under the umbrella of globalization. Th ­ ese ideas originated in the United States among economists and w ­ ere supported by professional counter­parts in Latin Amer­i­ca and elsewhere. They motivated international financial institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and they propelled the interests of both multinational corporations in the region and local business groups. Substantively, neoliberal economic ideology typically has called for a package of policies that include privatization, heavy foreign investment, export-­oriented growth, and ­free trade. Governments are si­mul­ta­neously to cut back on social subsidies and public support for social ser­vices. ­These cuts, along with rising prices and unemployment, often engender social discontent. Particularly in countries with relatively well-­organized ­labor movements, such as Argentina, or exceedingly high levels of poverty, like Haiti or Bolivia, this discontent has produced public riots, strikes, and other contentious demands on the state to curb its economic policies.

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For neoliberalism to succeed on its own terms, it requires domestic stability and social quiescence as a country undergoes painful short-­term cuts in anticipation of longer-­term economic growth. In this manner, economic ideology fuses with national security doctrine, as security forces lock in domestic stability by any means necessary, including h ­ uman rights abuses. The picture is complicated by the fact that members of the military often become implicated in the disproportionate wealth that befalls some members of society at the expense of ­others, making ­those members of the military personally vested in perpetuating vio­lence. Even more fundamentally, racism and other discriminatory ideologies make ­human rights violations pos­si­ble. Whenever ideas define some ­human beings as inferior to ­others, the stage is set for suspending rights. Racist ideas focus on perceived differences among ­people. The arbitrariness of determining who belongs to a race is amply evident in Latin Amer­i­ca, where intermarriage has obscured the bound­aries between p ­ eople of African, Eu­ ro­pean, indigenous, and other descent. Yet racism is endemic across Latin Amer­i­ca, as it is in many parts of the world. Racist ideas trace their roots partly to Spanish colonialism, which created power disparities and served to disenfranchise indigenous ­people and descendants of African slaves, groups that to this day represent most of the region’s minorities. Whites and mestizos, ­those descended from Eu­ro­pean ancestry and therefore generally lighter in skin tone, often reinforce historical power asymmetries by perpetuating ideas about the natu­ral inferiority of indigenous ­peoples and Afro-­ descendants. Since members of these groups also tend to be poorer, less educated, and therefore not as power­ful as mestizos, breaking out of the cycle of racism has proved difficult. Racism also ­factors into ­human rights violations targeting indigenous ­people, such as the genocide perpetuated against Mayan peasants in Guatemala during the 1980s. Other discriminatory ideas show that, even in the absence of security threats, some groups are perceived to threaten national identity. This helps to explain why w ­ omen, homosexuals, and ethnic or religious minorities can be targets of abuse. In practice, ­these underprivileged groups suffer systemic and legally sanctioned discrimination, including grave violations of basic economic and social rights. They may have their activities criminalized (e.g., same-­sex relations are illegal in parts of the Ca­rib­bean), enjoy ­limited access to public ser­vices like health care and l­egal institutions (e.g., indigenous ­people have ­limited access to health ser­vices and, consequently, higher rates of maternal mortality), or be deprived of basic rights (e.g., in


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the Dominican Republic, p ­ eople of Haitian descent lost their rights to citizenship, even though they w ­ ere born in the Dominican Republic). When ­human rights violations occur, exclusionary ideologies ensure that t­ here is ­little if any public outrage or mobilization. Deeply entrenched in social relations, exclusionary ideologies can be exceedingly difficult to change. We ­will explore efforts to challenge homophobia, sexism, racism, and other discriminatory ideologies in Chapter 7. Fi­nally, an ideology of impunity (the belief that perpetrators of h ­ uman rights violations w ­ ill not be punished) can lead to h ­ uman rights violations. Ideas about impunity can shape decision making, as leaders discount the risks of violating h ­ uman rights. In fact, leaders w ­ ill often violate h ­ uman rights precisely to avoid responsibility for other violations. This explains, for example, the targeting of ­human rights activists, a pervasive prob­lem throughout Latin Amer­i­ca. From the perspective of ­those violating ­human rights, beliefs about impunity make violations all too pos­si­ble.

The Role of the United States Latin American politics cannot be understood apart from the region’s complex historical relationship with its massive and power­ful neighbor to the north, the United States. The United States has played over time the role of both friend and foe of h ­ uman rights in the region. Indeed, single administrations have followed seemingly contradictory policies of promoting internationally recognized norms while aiding and abetting ­human rights violators. While this chapter focuses on the darker side of U.S. ­human rights policies in Latin Amer­i­ca, Chapter 9 considers U.S. efforts to promote ­human rights reform in the region. The shifting role of the United States itself needs to be understood in its historical context. In the nineteenth ­century, U.S. interests in the region ­were largely l­ imited to keeping Eu­ro­pe­ans from regaining power in Amer­ i­ca’s “backyard” and taking territory from Mexico. But by the late nineteenth c­ entury, the United States was using its growing military power to intervene more frequently, most obviously in Cuba and Puerto Rico in the Spanish-­A merican War of 1898, and then in Panama, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic in the next few de­cades. As the economic power of the United States grew, making it the largest foreign investor in the region, so did its tendency to justify intervention in the region, a trend that became more acute as Amer­i­ca’s power on the international stage expanded

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and Eu­rope’s waned during World Wars I and II. Amer­i­ca’s relations to its neighbors to the south linked it to the economic and military elite t­ here, links that would be greatly reinforced during the Cold War. When ­those elites w ­ ere threatened by insurgents inspired by communism, t­ here was ­little question whose side the United States would choose. The evidence—­from Guatemala, Chile, Argentina, Colombia, and beyond—­amply shows that the United States took sides in the region’s conflicts, often allying itself with authoritarian states against insurgents. The evidence is also clear that the United States encouraged, to varying degrees, the overthrow of demo­cratically elected governments it found threatening. The Guatemalan coup of 1954 and the Chilean coup of 1973 are prominent examples. Declassified documents reveal example ­a fter example of U.S. leaders explic­itly giving authoritarian despots in the region a green light for committing abuses, often at the same time that the United States was publicly applying pressure on ­these regimes. In a document declassified in 2004, for instance, Henry Kissinger is quoted as saying to Argentina’s generals in 1976: “If t­ here are t­ hings that have to be done, you should do them quickly.”9 Likewise, we now know that the United States directly assisted Operation Condor, a regional network of intelligence agencies that coordinated repression across borders, described in Chapter 3. Latin American leaders in the 1970s and 1980s perceived the “mixed signals” that the United States was sending as permission and encouragement to violate h ­ uman rights.10 Thus, Guatemala’s violations spiked to genocidal proportions in 1981–82, despite the fact that U.S. pressure appeared to be high. During his first term as president, Ronald Reagan adhered to the Kirkpatrick Doctrine—­named ­after the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Jeane Kirkpatrick, who claimed that the United States should maintain friendly relations with right-­wing authoritarian regimes even if they ­violated ­human rights, but oppose left-­wing totalitarian regimes. The Reagan administration repeatedly assured authoritarian regimes that they could repress leftist insurgents. The region’s militaries happily obliged, while indiscriminate abuse led to suffering among large segments of the region’s ­people. Onlookers felt betrayed by the hy­poc­risy of a superpower that claimed to promote h ­ uman rights. Ideologies undoubtedly play a role in explaining U.S. support for repression and other policies that have undermined ­human rights. Anti-­ communism, national security doctrines, neoliberal economic ideas, and


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anti-­terrorism served to drive h ­ uman rights abuses, as temporary exceptions required by a seemingly unique set of circumstances. During the Cold War, the belief prevailed that any challenge to the status quo carried the risk of communist infiltration and therefore necessitated widespread repression. Yet ideas influential enough to shape policies do not just float freely between individuals. They tend to get transmitted through regularized institutional channels and mechanisms. The high level of ­human rights abuses clustered in the de­cades between the 1960s and 1980s can partly be attributed to the fact that this period saw a generation of military professionals who had been indoctrinated ­after World War II to accept national security ideology.

The School of the Amer­i­cas Training in national security ideology, with all it implied for ­human rights, took place in part at the School of the Amer­i­cas (SOA), where the U.S. military trained Latin American militaries. Indeed, perhaps no image conveys more starkly the negative effects of the United States on h ­ uman rights in the region than the controversial SOA. Opened in 1946, the school has trained more than 80,000 members of the region’s security forces in basic military skills, counterinsurgency tactics, and the use of anti-­narcotics tools. Many of its trainees have gone on to join the annals of the region’s most notorious rights violators, including leaders of Argentina’s dirty war; one of the commanders of the El Mozote massacre; the founder of Honduras’s most infamous death squad, Battalion 3-16; a slew of violent coup leaders; and the instigator ­behind the assassination of El Salvador’s Archbishop Oscar Romero. A ­couple of issues are worth clarifying. First, despite the notoriety of some of its gradu­ates, most of the students training at the SOA are low-­level members of the military whose classes last from one week to four months; the elite officer-­training program is one year. Second, the SOA is but one of approximately 150 facilities that the United States uses to train members of foreign militaries. Some of ­these schools, including the Inter-­A merican Defense College in Washington, D.C., also offer courses in Spanish geared to officers from the region.11 The Cuban Revolution in 1959 and Fidel Castro’s rise to power ­were crucial to U.S. policy in the region and to the ascendance of the SOA’s popularity. Since 1963, the institution’s primary mission was to train the region’s militaries to fight communism ­under the banner of national security.

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Attendance at the SOA doubled in the 1960s. By the 1970s, the SOA was catering heavi­ly to students belonging to repressive militaries, especially Chile’s armed forces. The institution moved from Panama to Fort Benning, Georgia, in 1984. The move proved to be highly consequential, as part of the SOA mission expanded: gaining students’ allegiance by exposing them to the American way of life. Professional socialization acquired a more openly cultural component, playing off the race, class, and nationality divisions among the region’s students. With George H. W. Bush as president in the early 1990s, training during this period also extended to countering the drug war in the Andes. Many of the students during this period w ­ ere from El Salvador’s military, itself involved in a gruesome civil war. Securely ensconced within its fenced compound, the SOA came ­under intense criticism and scrutiny ­after 1996, leading it to undertake defensive reforms. The discovery of teaching manuals supporting the use of physical coercion led activists and concerned citizens to question the school’s involvement in the region through numerous protests and civil disobedience actions. In 1999, as public debate intensified, funding for the SOA was

FIGURE 3. Critics of the School of the Amer­i­c as demonstrate in front of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., in 2015. Alex Wong/Getty Images.


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almost eliminated. This culminated in a brief closure of the SOA and its reopening in 2001 ­under a new name: Western Hemi­sphere Institute of Security Cooperation. In addition, in response to intense pressure, the new institute (which critics continue calling the SOA) has incorporated ­human rights rhe­toric and content into its courses. All trainees are now required to take dozens of hours of ­human rights instruction, but critics continue to question the school’s role in supporting abusive militaries across the region. Since 2004, a few countries in the region, including Venezuela, Argentina, Costa Rica, and Bolivia, have refused to send their military or police forces to the institute. UP CLOSE: THE TORTURE MANUALS “While we do not stress the use of coercive techniques, we do want to make you aware of them and the proper way to use them.” “The ‘questioning’ room is the battlefield upon which the questioner and the subject meet. However, the ‘questioner’ has the advantage in that he has total control over the subject and his environment.” “Tapes can be edited and spliced, with effective results, if the tampering can be kept hidden.” “Throughout his detention, subject must be convinced that his ‘questioner’ controls his ultimate destiny, and that his absolute cooperation is essential for survival.” “[The questioner] is able to manipulate the subject’s environment, to create unpleasant or intolerable situations, to disrupt patterns of time, space, and sensory perception.” “The number of variations in technique is ­limited only by the experience and imagination of the ‘questioner.’ ” “The purpose of all coercive techniques is to induce psychological regression in the subject by bringing a superior outside force to bear on his w ­ ill to resist. Regression is basically a loss of autonomy, a reversion to an e­ arlier behavioral level.” “For centuries ‘questioners’ have employed vari­ous methods of inducing physical weakness: prolonged constraint; prolonged exertion; extremes of heat, cold, or moisture; and deprivation of food or sleep.” “­There is a profound moral objection to applying duress beyond the point of irreversible psychological damage, such as occurs during

Why H ­ u m a n R ig h t s A bus e s O c c u r 41 brainwashing. . . . ​Aside from this extreme, we ­will not judge the validity of other ethical arguments.” “If a subject refuses to comply once a threat has been made, it must be carried out.” “Some subjects actually enjoy pain and withhold information they might other­wise have divulged in order to be punished.” “­There are a few non-­coercive techniques which can be used to induce regression, but to a lesser degree than can be obtained with coercive techniques.” “A psychiatrist should be pre­sent if severe techniques are to be employed, to insure full reversal l­ater.” Source: Central Intelligence Agency, ­Human Resource Exploitation Manual (1983), used in several Latin American countries by CIA and Green Beret trainers in 1983–87, National Security Archive website (www​.­g wu​ .­edu​/­~nsarchiv).

New Priorities in U.S. Foreign Policy As the Cold War ended, anti-­communism was replaced by the war on drugs. Richard Nixon had declared the war on drugs in 1971, but it was not ­until the 1990s that efforts to block the flow of drugs from Latin Amer­ i­ca took hold. No longer distracted by the fight against communism, the United States spearheaded counterdrug programs in the region. As Chapters 4 and 5 ­will describe, the Andean countries (above all, Colombia, the source of most of the world’s cocaine) and Central Amer­i­ca and Mexico, along the trafficking corridor to the U.S. market, have been devastated by the fallout, with other countries in the region also being affected to varying degrees. Despite billions of dollars in counter-­narcotics support to Latin Amer­i­ca, the United States remains the main destination for drugs produced in Latin Amer­i­ca; and drug production in Latin Amer­i­ca has risen to all-­time highs. The United States is si­mul­ta­neously the source of the demand for Latin American drugs and much of the money and weaponry used by the military, police, and criminal organ­izations they fight. The war on drugs has had devastating implications for h ­ uman rights. For example, the Clinton administration’s Plan Colombia, initiated in the late 1990s, had immediate consequences for ­human rights in Colombia. The plan involved military assistance, including a U.S. on-­the-­ ground presence and, perhaps most controversially, aerial fumigation—­the


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use of herbicides to wipe out coca production. The hazardous pesticides often fall outside their target zone. They also eliminate basic crops, including the coca leaf, which peasants (mostly indigenous) rely on for their livelihood. In some cases, this led to displacement of already vulnerable populations. To be fair, the United States provided countries with funds to grow alternative crops and support demo­cratic institutions, and it has participated in discussions with the region’s militaries about the role of ­human rights. On balance, however, anti-­drug efforts have undermined ­human rights. Drug trafficking and the drug war have led to other h ­ uman rights abuses, too, as the region’s drug trafficking organ­izations and militaries rely primarily on vio­lence to achieve their goals. ­Human rights abuses by militaries fighting drug trafficking have led some observers to criticize close U.S. collaboration with security forces. In Colombia and Peru, anti-­drug efforts exacerbated existing po­liti­cal conflicts, feeding into a cycle of escalating vio­lence. Twenty-­first-­century initiatives, such as the Andean Counterdrug Initiative and the Mérida Initiative, have proved harmful. The latter provides a large volume of assistance to Mexico for fighting drug trafficking and crime, but it has been criticized for bolstering the military, which is known for a rising number of ­human rights abuses. While drug traffickers may seem more sensible targets than Cold War ideological opponents, the drug war has led to disproportionate h ­ uman rights abuses, serving as a new post–­Cold War rationale for suspending basic ­human rights. While drugs flow north to the United States, guns and drug profits move south into the hands of narco-­traffickers, who are sometimes as well armed as the police and military units they confront. ­W hether Pablo Escobar in Colombia or the Zetas in Mexico, ­these organ­izations unleash dramatic vio­ lence on their own countries, financed by American drug consumption. They are best thought of as transnational organ­izations, with connections as deep in the United States as in Latin Amer­i­ca. This is equally true of “street gangs” like MS-13 and Calle 18, which are “Made in Amer­ i­ca” in the sense that they emerged out of the gang culture and prisons of Los Angeles, California (see Chapter 4). A cycle of Central American migration fueled by vio­lence and exacerbated by U.S. policy persists: U.S.-­ supported repression and war in Central Amer­i­ca in the 1980s, led to a large flow of Central American mi­grants coming to the United States; t­ hose who ended up in prison in Los Angeles absorbed the gang culture that dominated the area; they w ­ ere eventually deported back to Central Amer­i­ca,

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where they terrorized the population, leading to an even larger exodus of Central Americans to the U.S. border. Migration is therefore an impor­tant lens through which to think about the hegemonic role of the United States in the region. Throughout the period described in this book, millions of Latin Americans have been driven from their homes by vio­lence, repression, and harsh socioeconomic realities, and many of them sought refuge in the United States. The U.S. response has sometimes seemed starkly contradictory, welcoming Cubans but rejecting Haitians, for example. The overall trend has nonetheless been ­toward a growing hostility to Latin American mi­grants. During the Obama and Trump administrations, huge numbers of Latin Americans w ­ ere deported from the United States, often in violation of their right to apply for asylum. Trump made hostility to Latin American mi­grants a cornerstone of his campaign for the presidency. The harsh policies implemented during his presidency exacerbated xenophobic and racist sentiment, and overlooked the real­ity that immigrants arriving at the U.S. southern border are often fleeing vio­lence and poverty that the United States itself has had a role in exacerbating.

Frameworks for Understanding State Terror ­ uman rights abuses in Latin Amer­i­ca reveal the importance of decision-­ H making f­actors, ideology, and external pressures for understanding state terror. While each of the ­factors identified in this chapter enhances the likelihood that h ­ uman rights ­will be v­ iolated, none absolves any ­human rights violator from responsibility; repressors tend to know that what they are ­doing is internationally illegal. Still, structural conditions do help to explain why ­human rights violations can be so prevalent even when they are internationally prohibited. Identifying individual f­ actors that contribute to rights violations is not the same as offering a more general explanation of why states inflict horrible abuse on h ­ uman beings. This requires combining the vari­ous contributing ­factors into an overall account of ­human rights violations—­specifying how dif­fer­ent f­ actors explain distinct aspects of the decision to act abusively. Taking this analytical step is crucial. For example, if authoritarianism is significant for understanding ­human rights violations (and large-­scale statistical studies, as well as commonsense observations, tell us that it is), then why do egregious abuses persist even u ­ nder demo­cratically elected regimes


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like t­ hose in Colombia or Mexico? A broader theory can help clarify questions such as ­these. Figure 4 offers one explanatory framework for understanding state abuse. According to this depiction, exclusionary ideologies are the starting point for explaining rights violations. Before leaders undertake cost-­ benefit calculations about the utility of engaging in repression, they must first deem repression appropriate. Deeply ingrained, institutionalized ideas define who counts as a full ­human being, entitled to state protection, and who does not. Thus, racism excludes ­people with certain characteristics who challenge the identity of power­ful actors; anti-­communism targets leftist sympathizers, seeking to protect the greater good, as well as the twin values of democracy and capitalism; national security doctrine vilifies any challenge to the status quo as a threat to the security of the nation and Western civilization; neoliberal economic ideology silences social protest in the name of long-­term economic growth; and so on. Anywhere that ­these ideologies are found, the possibility for ­human rights abuse exists. The ­actual trigger for ­human rights violations comes in the form of domestic instability, which makes repression a desirable outcome, given the exclusionary ideologies already in place. Domestic instability can take vari­ ous forms, including most of the decision-­making ­factors discussed ­earlier in this chapter—­namely, war, poverty, and security threats. The more ­these ­factors are pre­sent, the greater the state’s rationale for abusing ­human rights. From the perspective of state leaders, instability (especially prevalent in military and security crises) threatens their hold on power. Just as exclusionary ideologies make repression v­ iable, domestic instability makes them appear necessary. In justifying abuses, therefore, leaders ­will point to domestic instability as evidence of exceptional circumstances.



Exclusionary ideologies

Appropriateness of repression

Domestic instability

Rationale for state repression

Weak democracy

Support for state repression

FIGURE 4. A Framework for Explaining State Abuse.

Why H ­ u m a n R ig h t s A bus e s O c c u r 45

This is why higher degrees of domestic instability are so often associated with greater ­human rights abuses. Focusing on the broader role of domestic instability helps to explain some other­wise puzzling outcomes, including why ­human rights violations often occur in the absence of war or poverty. Linking domestic instability to exclusionary ideologies also accounts for why security threats of widely varying degrees nonetheless seem almost always to trigger a violent response from the state. Indeed, in nearly e­ very case in Latin Amer­i­ca, states whose leaders and their allies had a­ dopted exclusionary ideologies responded to security threats with vio­lence. The final step in understanding h ­ uman rights violations is democracy, a ­factor that many studies have found significant. The absence or weakness of democracy helps to explain the support that state leaders ­will enjoy for pursuing repression. Exclusionary ideologies and domestic instability alone w ­ ill produce h ­ uman rights abuses, but the degree to which a country is demo­cratic can help to explain the scope of repression. In nondemo­ cratic regimes, like Venezuela ­today, t­ hose who support violations tend to have more institutionalized access to decision making, and the state’s coercive apparatus enjoys substantial autonomy from public opinion. In democracies, where some exclusionary ideologies always survive, leaders ­will also respond to serious domestic instability with repression. The key difference is that the consequences of their actions are much less certain for demo­cratic leaders ­because of electoral accountability, the lack of severe censorship, and the presence of ­legal opponents. This means that they ­may repress, but they ­will do so in ways that attempt to distance the state from blatant acts of vio­lence. Consequently, in more demo­cratic regimes, repression may be farmed out to paramilitary groups or blamed on criminal organ­izations. Attempting to “solve” or prevent a prob­lem always requires understanding its c­ auses. As common as this assumption is in almost all fields, the temptation to treat ­human rights differently can be overwhelming. ­People often gravitate to one of two polar views: they assume that h ­ uman rights advocacy is sufficient, and then inevitably become disappointed, or they despair at the seeming impossibility of using policies to correct ­human wrongs. Insights from social science suggest that the structural conditions that make violations seem desirable and appropriate for po­liti­cal leaders must be targeted: war, poverty, the lack of democracy, security threats, and


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exclusionary ideologies. Th ­ ere are no shortcuts around this. As long as ­these f­ actors exist, ­human rights abuses w ­ ill persist. Discussion Questions 1. What are the dominant ste­reo­t ypes about ­human rights in Latin Amer­ i­ca? How have they s­haped conventional explanations about h ­ uman rights violations? To what extent, in your view, are ­those explanations valid? 2. Is ideology actually impor­tant for understanding h ­ uman rights violations, or is it just an after-­the-­fact excuse? Discuss both sides of this issue. 3. How persuasive do you find insights from social science to explain h ­ uman rights abuses? Which aspects do you find most and least compelling? 4. What concrete implications flow from the framework presented in ­Figure  4 for governments? For ­human rights advocates? For the informed public? 5. Can states abide by the rule of law when responding to national security threats? Should they?

Resources Additional Reading Sabine C. Carey and Steven C. Poe, eds., Understanding H ­ uman Rights Vio­ lations: New Systematic Studies (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004). One of the few book-­length attempts to explain ­human rights violations; provides a solid introduction. Christian Davenport, State Repression and the Domestic Demo­cratic Peace (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007). Sophisticated account of when and how democracies engage in repression. Christian Davenport, Hank Johnston, and Carol Mueller, eds., Repression and Mobilization (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2005). Insights into how domestic threats make physical integrity violations more likely. Cecilia Menjívar and Néstor Rodríguez, eds., When States Kill: Latin Amer­ i­ca, the U.S., and Technologies of Terror (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2005). Traces ­human rights violations in the region to technologies of terror, emphasizing the role of the United States. Darius Rejali, Torture and Democracy (Prince­ton, N.J.: Prince­ton University Press, 2007). An award-­winning book examining startling connections between democracies and the use of torture. Lars Schoultz, National Security and United States Policy ­Toward Latin Amer­ i­ca (Prince­ton, N.J.: Prince­ton University Press, 2007). First-­rate overview

Why H ­ u m a n R ig h t s A bus e s O c c u r 47 of U.S. policy ­toward the region, focusing specifically on national security issues.

Filmography Death Squadrons: The French School (2003). South American generals describe the torture and killing of victims during the dirty war, including the role of military training by French officers. 60 minutes. Harvest of Empire (2012). Documentary linking migration from Latin Amer­ i­ca to the United States to U.S. policy in the region. 92 minutes. Hidden in Plain Sight (2003). Dif­fer­ent sides of the controversial debate over the School of the Amer­i­cas. 71 minutes. Men with Guns (1997). Feature film directed by John Sayles, set in a fictional Latin American country experiencing civil war and widespread abuses. 127 minutes. School of Assassins (1994) and ­Father Roy: Inside the School of Assassins (1997). Critical look at the School of the Amer­i­cas, including activists and former gradu­ates. 17 and 57 minutes, respectively. Useful Websites Congressional Research Ser­vice Reports. Searchable database includes hundreds of U.S. reports that provide insight into U.S. foreign relations. https://­crsreports​.­congress​.­gov. National Security Archive (George Washington University). A wide range of declassified documents relevant to ­human rights. Click on “Proj­ects” to find special sections on proj­ects devoted to specific countries in Latin Amer­i­ca. www​.­g wu​.­edu​/­~nsarchiv. Paul Hensel’s International Relations Data Site. Access to hundreds of types of international data, including some of the ­factors discussed in this chapter. www​.­paulhensel​.­org​/­data​.­html. School of the Amer­i­cas Watch. Critical, activist website with a wealth of information. www​.­soaw​.­org. Security Assistance Monitor. Most comprehensive database of U.S. military assistance. Search for “Latin Amer­i­ca.” http://­securityassistance​.­org/ U.S. Central Intelligence Agency’s Reading Room. Searchable database of documents released through the Freedom of Information Act requests, including curated collections of documents related to Cuba and Argentina. https://­w ww​.­cia​.­gov​/­library​/­readingroom​/­.

2 Grappling with the Past


lmost ­every country in Latin Amer­i­ca has confronted the question of how to grapple with the legacy of large-­scale ­human rights abuses. Socie­ties undergoing democ­ratization and post-­conflict reconstruction must confront past ­human rights abuses sooner or ­later. Who was responsible for violations ­under the old regime, and who should be held accountable now? Should truth be pursued at all costs, even if it threatens a new and perhaps fragile stability? Can violators be punished without sacrificing democracy? Can ­human rights and democracy thrive in the absence of national reconciliation? In the aftermath of a long period of egregious violations, it is tempting to assume that h ­ uman rights issues are a t­ hing of the past. But victims and their relatives are unlikely to let go of the past. They ­will demand answers, bodies to bury, and some semblance of justice—­ fragmentary mea­sures to bring them closure. While Latin Amer­i­ca is not entirely unique in this regard, it has played a pathbreaking role. It is the region of the world with the highest concentration of truth commissions. High-­profile international criminal cases helped to build a consensus for an International Criminal Court. Likewise, as detailed below, the region’s proximity to the United States has meant that a number of Latin Americans have been prosecuted in U.S. courts for their past ­human rights crimes. Perhaps most impressively, it is also the region where the most ­human rights ­trials have occurred. The pivotal experience gained by forensic scientists in investigations into past abuses in Latin Amer­i­ca has been exported around the world. Yet despite ­these gains, impunity remains the Achilles’ heel of h ­ uman rights reform.1 Politics

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explains why accountability has sometimes made impressive gains and other times proved so elusive. It may seem odd to start at the end, by examining the pursuit of justice before exploring the abuses themselves. This back-­to-­t he-­f uture approach is intended to preview the h ­ uman rights transformations that have occurred throughout the region. Being equipped with a sense of where countries have ended, including ongoing strug­gles over transitional justice, positions us to better understand past abuses and therefore the dynamics of ­human rights change.

Demo­cratic Transitions and the Quest for Justice For a country undergoing a profound transformation—­moving from a past of systematic ­human rights abuses to a demo­cratic ­future in which civil and po­liti­cal rights are largely protected—­the pursuit of justice can appear daunting. Members of the old regime and their supporters have had the ­tables turned; they must now coexist with the new regime and its pro-­ democracy forces. In many cases, former torturers and abusive police officers continue to live alongside their victims, crossing each other on the street and seeing one another at movie theaters. In the higher echelons, abusive officers may still be in the government or military or pursuing lucrative c­ areers in the private sector, while repressive leaders continue to live comfortable and undisturbed lives in their villas and clubs. One victim described the urge to seek revenge: “The ones who took them and killed them are right ­there, on active duty. They are still mocking us. When I see them a change comes over me. Just looking at them makes you sin, ­because so many t­ hings come to your mind.”2 As long as no one confronts the past openly, old wounds are likely to fester and threaten demo­cratic consolidation. The question is how to address past ­human rights abuses. Justice can be subjective, a­ fter all, and it can take vari­ous forms. The narrowest conception equates justice with ­legal punishment. According to this definition, h ­ uman rights justice occurs only when violators are tried in courts and sentenced for their crimes. A broader view of h ­ uman rights justice focuses on the pro­cess that a society goes through to confront and address past abuse. From this perspective, truth itself can be a form of justice. Yet another approach is to seek revenge on violators, resulting in the kind of vigilante justice that gripped the streets of Port-­au-­Prince and other


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Haitian cities. The prob­lem is that precisely b­ ecause t­ here are dif­fer­ent ave­ nues to justice, ­people ­will disagree over which course to take. The pursuit of justice is therefore likely to be contentious, even among ­human rights supporters. In practice, the policy options for countries undergoing demo­cratic transitions typically have focused on truth commissions and ­human rights ­trials. H ­ uman rights t­ rials, as we ­will discuss in subsequent sections, can be held in the country where the abuses w ­ ere committed, in a foreign country, or in an international court. Regardless of the path chosen, the pursuit of justice requires exhaustive investigations to compile concrete facts about the past, re­create chains of command, and establish clear evidence for accusations. Dif­fer­ent options are not necessarily mutually exclusive—­a country can have both a truth commission and h ­ uman rights ­trials—­but ­there are always trade-­offs associated with a par­tic­u­lar choice, as this chapter reveals. While Latin American countries have taken dif­fer­ent paths on the road to establishing h ­ uman rights accountability, they all have strug­gled with the challenges of impunity. The vari­ous options chosen throughout the region have tended to reflect the relative strength of the military versus the dynamism of the h ­ uman rights movement in a given country. Where militaries have retained elite support and remained power­f ul ­under democracy but the ­human rights movement has been relatively weak, ­human rights accountability has also been weak (e.g., Brazil). The strongest cases of accountability are found in countries with a weak military and strong ­human rights movement (e.g., Argentina). Where both militaries and ­human rights groups have been strong, however, a more complicated path has been chosen (e.g., Chile).3 In all cases, ­human rights accountability has required strong demo­cratic institutions and practices; absent t­ hese (e.g., Mexico and Cuba), governments have resisted the systematic pursuit of ­human rights justice.

The Role of Truth Commissions Of the countries covered in this book, all but Cuba have held at least one national truth commission. Truth commissions, which are temporary institutions created to pursue truth retroactively, are far from s­ imple or noncontentious creations. They can have numerous purposes, and they require extensive resources and po­liti­cal commitment. In general, the region’s truth

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commissions have tended to fulfill—to varying degrees—­t wo primary functions: documentation and reparations. Truth commissions also vary in terms of their mandates, in­de­pen­dence, and resources. In addition to the truth commissions listed in T ­ able 2, some countries have created special, more l­imited commissions of inquiry to investigate a par­tic­u­lar episode of abuse, such as Mexico’s truth commission, established in 2019, to investigate the murders of forty-­three students from Ayotzinapa five years ­earlier. In ­others, “unofficial” truth commissions by non-­state actors have arisen. For example, Brazil’s Archdiocese of São Paulo published a widely circulated report in 1985, titled Brasil: Nunca Mais. The Brazilian government itself created a special commission in 1995 to accept petitions for compensation from families of ­those killed or dis­appeared since the 1960s; a 500-­page report, The Right to Memory and Truth, was issued in 2007.4 And whereas Uruguay technically had a truth commission, its report was considered so inadequate that an NGO stepped in to document past abuses. The mandate of a truth commission can be relatively broad or narrow, depending on the range of abuses covered. In this regard, a truth commission’s name can reveal a g­ reat deal about it. Many commissions in the region chose to focus narrowly on cases of disappearance, as is most evident in Argentina’s case, while disregarding abuses like torture. Interestingly, only two commissions incorporated the notion of “reconciliation,” borrowed from the South African context, into their own bodies: Chile and Peru. Guatemala’s commission uniquely emphasized “historical clarification,” provocatively alluding to a rewriting of history, while Uruguay’s drew attention to the pursuit of peace. Even if many commissions have been unable to fulfill their stated purposes, a truth commission’s mandate still highlights each country’s preferred approach to retroactive justice. Truth commissions have been granted differing levels of in­de­pen­dence and resources, which in turn has affected their overall impact. On the weak side of the spectrum, the Bolivian commission, despite being the first created in the region in 1982, was disbanded prematurely and never issued a final report. Its l­imited in­de­pen­dence was apparent from the outset, with the commission being placed ­under the direction of the Defense Ministry—­ itself implicated in past violations. Likewise, Ec­ua­dor’s first commission was dismantled shortly a­ fter being created for lack of po­liti­cal support; more than a de­cade ­later, another commission was created, showing how per­sis­tent socie­ties can be in pursuing retroactive justice. On the other side of the spectrum, Argentina’s commission has perhaps been the region’s

­Table 2. Official Truth Commissions in Latin Amer­i­ca Country

Year Created




National Commission of Inquiry into Disappearances (8 members) Report released: None Documented 155 cases of disappearance, 1967–82



National Commission on the Dis­appeared (16 members) Report released: 1984 Documented 9,000 disappearances, 1976–83



National Commission for Truth and Reconciliation (8 members) Report released: 1991 Documented abuses, 1973–90

El Salvador


Commission on the Truth for El Salvador (3 members, UN-­mandated) Report released: 1993 Documented abuses, 1980–92



Prepared by National Commissioner for the Protection of ­Human Rights Report released: 1993 Documented more than 180 disappearances, 1979–90



Commission for Historical Clarification (3 members, UN-­mandated) Report released: 1999 (3,500-­page, 9-­volume report) Documented abuses, 1962–96



National Truth and Justice Commission (7 members) Report released: 1996 Documented abuses, 1991–94



Truth and Justice Commission (7 members) Disbanded soon ­a fter creation


Ecuador (con’t)

Year Created



Truth Commission (4 members) Report released: 2010 Documented more than 456 cases of disappearance, torture, and po­liti­c al killings, 1984–2008



Truth and Reconciliation Commission (12 members) Report released: 2003 Documented more than 69,000 deaths and disappearances, 1980–2000



National Peace Commission (6 members) Report released: 2002 Documented disappearances, 1973–85



Truth Commission (7 members) Report released: 2001 Documented abuses, 1968–89



Truth and Justice Commission (9 members) Report released: 2008 Documented hundreds of disappearances, 1954–2003



Truth and Reconciliation Commission (8 members) Report released: 2011 Documented abuses against 20 individuals during the 2009 constitutional crisis



National Truth Commission (7 members) Report released: 2014 Confirmed 434 disappearances and extrajudicial executions, widespread torture, 1964–85



Commission for the Clarification of Truth, Coexistence and Non-­Repetition (11 members) Report expected: 2022


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highest profile institution. Guatemala’s internationally supported commission has also been among the most extensive and prominent in the world, with 100 to 200 staffers and more than a dozen field offices in the country. Peru’s commission reached an all-­time high in staff, numbering at one time about 500. The in­de­pen­dence and resources of a truth commission reflect, above all, the extent to which members of the former regime retain power and continue to enjoy societal support.

Uncovering the Truth Truth commissions are perhaps best known for documenting past ­human rights abuses, in the pro­cess exposing an overlooked, distorted, or other­ wise silenced truth. Documentation itself is a complex task, involving a ­great deal of coordination and many resources. The emphasis is on collecting detailed evidence of abuses, including testimony from witnesses (17,000 statements, in the case of Peru’s commission); physical evidence, including evidence from decomposed bodies; and paper trails revealing responsibility in a complex chain of command. The effort can require years of work on the part of NGOs, relatives of victims, police officers, teams of ­lawyers, and forensic scientists. It can require traveling to remote parts of a country to interview hundreds of p ­ eople, or holding hearings at which ­people—­victims, bystanders, and perpetrators—­recollect past horrors. UP CLOSE: 80 MILLION PAGES OF PAPER TRAIL—­T HE GUATEMALAN POLICE FILES An explosion at a munitions dump on the outskirts of Guatemala City in mid-2005 led to an unexpected discovery. It all started when local residents contacted the ­Human Rights Ombudsman office, requesting that area buildings be searched for further explosives. When Ombudsman representatives entered an abandoned building owned by the National Civil Police, they ­were shocked by what they found. The rat-­ infested dark, dank rooms in the building contained the archives of the former National Police. A closer look at the documents revealed astounding evidence of abuse: written ­orders, interrogation notes, and photos of corpses. Investigators even uncovered documents coded with numbers that stood for specific ­orders, such as “kill” or “dis­appear.” Rebuilding the archive was an arduous pro­cess, ­under the direction of the Ombudsman office that made the initial discovery. First, the

G r a ppl i ng w i t h t h e Pa s t 55 documents had to be preserved. Many Guatemalans who had lost relatives to state-­sponsored vio­lence worked on-­site, hopeful that their endeavor would lead to greater truth and justice. Special software was used to input much of the data, with several Eu­ro­pean governments donating funds to facilitate the proj­ect. Some of the material would be used in h ­ uman rights t­ rials and contributed invaluably to convictions. It may be the largest single cache of documents ever made available to ­human rights investigators. Source: H ­uman Rights Data Analy­ sis Group (https://­hrdag​.­org​ /­g uatemala) and Kirsten Weld’s Paper Cadavers: The Archives of Dictatorship in Guatemala (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2014).

A common challenge that truth commissions face is how much truth to reveal. For example, should hearings be open to the public or held b­ ehind closed doors? Most commissions in the region have held private hearings; but if public hearings are chosen, should they be televised, as they ­were in Peru? In addition, should truth commissions name names—­that is, reveal the identity of perpetrators? And if names remain sealed to avoid retribution against violators, what steps should be taken to ensure that the names are not leaked? The consensus is that revealing the truth about h ­ uman rights abuses must be done in a way that honors victims without further polarizing society. The final product usually takes the form of a report. While a report may sound relatively innocuous compared to the scope of ­human rights atrocities, it can serve valuable functions. Reports can be extensive, detailed, and widely disseminated. One of the best-­known truth commission reports in the world, Argentina’s Nunca Más (Never Again), documented approximately 9,000 cases of disappearance; an abridged version of the report quickly became a national best seller. Guatemala’s report, Memory of Si­ lence, was more than 3,500 pages and spanned nine volumes. It named more than 40,000 p ­ eople who had been killed or dis­appeared and accused the state and its armed forces of having committed genocide against the indigenous Mayan population. Truth commission reports can serve multiple ends. They often include appendixes with a substantial amount of data that shows how abuses changed over time or how they ­were distributed across the country. Any student researching ­human rights conditions in a country that has had a


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FIGURE 5. Students who are part of the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team, inspired by the work of forensic scientist Clyde Snow, work in 2006 to piece together unidentified remains to provide evidence of h ­ uman rights crimes. Juan Mabromata/ AFP via Getty Images.

truth commission should consult the commission’s report, an indispensable tool for understanding ­human rights vio­lence. Beyond providing valuable data, truth commission reports can be cathartic for a society coming out of a period of intense repression: They help to restore justice by acknowledging victims, revealing the scope of past abuse, and accusing state and non-­state actors of vio­lence. Truth is always an essential step for ensuring accountability. UP CLOSE: FORENSIC SCIENCE UNCOVERS THE TRUTH Forensic anthropologists—­who study ­human remains to identify victims and their form of death—­play an impor­tant role in establishing the truth about past ­human rights violations. The use of forensic science to promote ­human rights justice was first used most extensively in Latin Amer­i­ca. U ­ nder the leadership of world-­renowned North American forensic scientist Clyde Snow, the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (Equipo Argentino de Antropología Forense) was created in 1984. This was the first forensic team in the world to identify the remains

G r a ppl i ng w i t h t h e Pa s t 57 of ­human rights victims. Their work relied on close collaboration with ­human rights groups, such as the ­Mothers and Grand­mothers of the Plaza de Mayo. Using DNA testing, the goal was to establish genet­ically the identity of the victim, often found in an unmarked, mass grave—­ whether to bring relief to grieving relatives, to establish the truth for the truth’s sake, or to challenge the ­legal impunity of perpetrators. The Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team has worked in more than thirty countries, and similar groups based in other countries have proliferated around the region and the world. Forensic scientists have played especially impor­tant roles not only in Guatemala, Peru, and Chile, but also in Bosnia, Rwanda, East Timor, and beyond. Source: Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team website (www​.­eaaf​.­org).

Reparations Another valuable, if downplayed, function of truth commissions is to recommend reparations and compensation for victims and their families. Though the terms “reparation” and “compensation” are often used interchangeably, the difference is subtle but not insignificant. Reparations seek to make amends for a wrong, a token gesture acknowledging past pain and suffering. The purpose of compensation is to reimburse someone for losses incurred, such as loss in income. The amount of reparation and compensation allocated tends to follow specific formulas. For example, recommendations by Argentina’s commission led to a reparation scheme in which relatives of a dis­appeared person could receive a lump sum of $220,000, the equivalent of 100 months of salary for the highest-­paid civil servant. In Chile, relatives of t­ hose killed receive a monthly lifetime pension, as well as health and educational benefits; in addition, tens of thousands of civil servants who had been dismissed from their jobs for po­liti­cal reasons w ­ ere eligible for compensation. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Guatemala offered $3,200 to families for each f­ amily member killed (with a limit of two such payments per f­ amily) and smaller payments for survivors of rape or torture. The notion of “paying” victims or their relatives for past h ­ uman rights abuses tends to elicit strong reactions. Some observers (especially ­t hose viewing the situation from afar) consider it tasteless to attach a monetary price tag to indescribable suffering and abuse. How could monetary compensation be commensurate with a victim’s pain? O ­ thers worry that


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reparations for past abuses may hurt unstable economies or divert resources from present-­day poverty. A more pragmatic view, in contrast, emphasizes the responsibility of the government to give something to the victim or his or her relatives and to compensate for the concrete and intangible losses suffered as a result of abuse, including loss of a victim’s income or the lost opportunity to pursue an education. They note that the amounts in question are relatively small for government coffers, while the payoffs for political—­and therefore economic—­stability are potentially much larger. Almost no one, however, would claim that reparations or compensations are sufficient to make amends for ­human rights violations. Often governments lack the po­liti­cal w ­ ill to fully fund and implement reparations. Guatemala’s government initiated a reparations program in 2003, and compensated approximately 32,800 victims by 2019. However, the a­ ctual number of victims was much greater given that the conflict took 200,000 lives and displaced 1.5 million ­people. The government, moreover, has made ­little effort to or­ga­nize a registry of victims to identify ­those qualified for reparations. This means that the a­ ctual number of victims may never be known.5 While national reparations programs are subject to po­liti­cal manipulation, other reparations are ordered by courts, e­ ither domestic or international. Consider the case of Myrna Mack, a Guatemalan anthropologist educated in ­England. In 1990, while she was researching indigenous populations in Guatemala City, state agents murdered her, stabbing her more than twenty times. Perhaps b­ ecause of the high-­profile nature of the case, the government conceded responsibility, apologized, and awarded Mack’s ­family $800,000  in compensation but only ­after the case went to the Inter-­A merican Court of ­Human Rights in 2003. And, in 2004, Guatemala’s Supreme Court also convicted a high-­ranking member of the military for Mack’s killing. (He escaped and went into hiding before serving his sentence.) Other governments have used compensations to stave off further prosecutions. The Brazilian government in the 1990s refused to investigate past crimes or prosecute ­human rights violators. Instead, it responded to ­human rights pressure by compensating survivors and their relatives. In other cases, the fact that compensation has not been extended to all victims (for example, victims of torture who ­were not killed) has led skeptics to be wary of government motives in issuing compensation.

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The key question is w ­ hether countries undergoing transitional justice would be better off without monetary compensations or a truth commission. H ­ uman rights organ­izations, on balance, tend to support the idea that governments should pay reparations. Even when governments are pressured to take such steps, official recognition of past abuse contributes to a stronger climate of accountability and justice. For example, as a result of pressure from both the Inter-­A merican Court of H ­ uman Rights and the Inter-­A merican Commission on ­Human Rights (IACHR) in 2003, Honduras’s president issued his country’s first official apology for past h ­ uman rights violations and initiated a program to compensate dozens of claimants.6 Documentation and reparations, the main outputs of truth commissions, may seem sorely incomplete steps, but the alternatives—­official silence and forgetting—­may not be feasible as long as enough ­people remember the past and continue to demand justice. UP CLOSE: REMEMBERING VICTIMS IN PUBLIC MEMORIALS “Striking in its simplicity, the memorial employs few basic materials—­ glass, rock, concrete, and light—in a natu­ral forest setting close to the w ­ ater. A white bridge juts out over a pool of exposed jagged rocks. Two large glass panels flank the sides of the bridge. The names of the 176 dis­appeared and detained citizens are ­etched in the glass” (Description of the Memorial of Dis­appeared and Detained Citizens in Montevideo, Uruguay, the first in the region dedicated solely to the dis­appeared). Truth commissions often propose ways in which the past might be memorialized for ­future generations. Typical recommendations call for statues and monuments to be erected, museums and parks to be built, public spaces to be labeled as sites of former abuse, and national days of remembrance to be marked permanently. In practice, nongovernmental groups and civil society have been the driving forces b ­ ehind the region’s h ­ uman rights memorials. Villa Grimaldi in Chile, a former villa in the outskirts of Santiago that was frequented by artists and intellectuals in the nineteenth ­century and used as a notorious detention center u ­ nder Pinochet, is


L e g ac i e s of A bus e one of the most widely known and power­ful memorial sites in Latin Amer­i­c a. While the military razed most of the complex in the final days of Pinochet’s rule, it has been converted to a Park for Peace u ­ nder democracy. Very l­ittle has been reconstructed. Instead, discreet plaques on the ground mark the location of cells. A tree from the past where a soldier was once hanged for sympathizing with prisoners and a ­rose garden where female detainees ­were raped still stand. Eerily, the original swimming pool, used by officers—­and their c­hildren on weekends, whose laughter and squeals could be heard by detainees nearby—­also remains. A fountain marks the spot where prisoners w ­ ere beaten, just as a wall lists the names of hundreds killed at the camp and plaques commemorate ­women victims. A tower where prisoners ­were tortured is one of the only ­things that has been reconstructed. The symbolism of Villa Grimaldi cannot be overstated, as former prisoners visit alongside foreign dignitaries and, outside its gates, relatives of the dis­appeared have continued demanding accountability. Even the seemingly innocuous step of creating a memorial can be contentious, as socie­t ies debate the most appropriate ways in which past h ­ uman rights atrocities should be remembered. Where should memorials be erected? On the site of former places of abuse? In more neutral spaces? Is it acceptable to place them near military facilities? More generally, how can a memorial capture the horror of the past while remaining relevant to ­future generations? ­These dilemmas ­were compounded in the case of Guatemala, where Western notions of memorializing clashed with indigenous traditions: Rather than memorials emphasizing national reconciliation, indigenous groups demanded—but have not gotten—­reconstruction of the traditional shrines that ­were destroyed by the army during the country’s thirty-­ six-­year civil war. “The military dictatorship’s principal camp for torturing and killing has been converted into a symbol of state repression and vio­lence. It is a place of horror and memory. It is a place from which we can help tell the story of a generation eliminated by the dictatorship. . . . ​Finding the tools to tell that story to new generations is the Gordian knot before us” (Marcelo Brodsky, on how to memorialize Argentina’s most notorious detention camp, the Navy Mechanics School).

G r a ppl i ng w i t h t h e Pa s t 61 Sources: Molly Dondero, “The Power of Design, Memory, and Civic Participation in the Southern Cone,” Latin Americanist (University of Florida Center for Latin American Studies) 37, 2 (Fall/Winter 2006): 4; Marcelo Brodsky, ed., Memoria en construcción: El debate sobre la ESMA (Buenos Aires: La Marca, 2005), 44 (author translation).

­Human Rights ­Trials For some members of society, the “restorative justice” of truth commissions is insufficient: Without perpetrators being held accountable for their crimes, ­there can be no justice. Despite the enormous documentation and truth telling of Guatemala’s commission, for example, many Guatemalans ­were left wanting more. “As the conclusions [of the truth commission’s report] ­were read at a solemn ceremony at the National Theatre, rights workers, relatives of victims and ­others among the 2,000 ­people broke into standing ovations, sobs, shouts and chants of ‘Justice! Justice!’ ”7 They wanted h ­ uman rights violators to be punished for their past crimes. The cry for “retributive justice”—or punishment—­has been so strong throughout the region that in e­ very country in which a truth commission has been formed, ­human rights ­trials have also been held. In fact, the majority of domestic h ­ uman rights t­rials in the world have taken place in Latin Amer­i­ca, followed in distant second by Eastern Eu­rope. Part of this may be explained by the fact that Central and South American countries have civil law systems (as opposed to the common law systems that predominate in the Ca­rib­bean and the United States). Civil law systems, influenced by continental Eu­rope, permit victims and third parties like ­human rights groups to file criminal complaints with courts; in contrast, Anglo-­A merican common law systems only permit public prosecutors to file criminal complaints. While ­human rights ­trials have been common throughout the region, some countries—­A rgentina, Chile, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay, and Peru—­have made more use of them. Recent data further indicates that h ­ uman rights t­rials tend to occur, on average, about ten years a­ fter a demo­cratic transition has been initiated.8 The case-­study chapters w ­ ill detail some of the precedent-­setting ­trials that have occurred in recent years. In the 1990s, h ­ uman rights ­trials of Latin Amer­i­ca’s alleged perpetrators began popping up in U.S. and Eu­ro­pean courtrooms as well. In the


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United States, two domestic laws allowed for this. First, the Alien Tort Claims Act (also known as the Alien Tort Statute), which has been on the books since the eigh­teenth c­ entury, allows foreign nationals (“aliens”) to bring claims before U.S. courts for violations of international law. Second, the Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991 requires the United States to “extradite or prosecute” torturers, even if they are foreign. The first case in which the United States applied domestic laws to try someone for a h ­ uman rights crime involved Latin Amer­i­ca. In the now famous Filártiga v. Peña-­Irala case (1980, U.S. Federal Court), the Filártiga ­family from Paraguay confronted the alleged killer of their teenage son. Peña-­Irala, a Paraguayan police inspector at the time of the killing, had purportedly overseen the torture of their son, leading to the young boy’s death. As is common in ­these cases, the Filártiga ­family caught wind of the fact that Peña-­Irala had illegally overstayed his visa in the United States, and they contacted U.S. immigration ser­vices. Peña-­Irala was arrested and eventually charged with wrongful death by torture. The court found Peña-­ Irala guilty of torture, a clear violation of international ­human rights law. Referring to the Alien Tort Claims Act to justify its jurisdiction, the court awarded more than $10 million in damages to the Filártiga ­family. In another landmark case, a federal jury in Miami awarded $4 million in damages to the ­family of Winston Cabello, a twenty-­eight-­year-­ old who had been killed by a former member of the Chilean military and secret police (Fernández Larios).9 Fernández Larios had retired in the United States as part of a plea bargain, having exchanged information about Chile’s role in two 1976 assassinations committed in Washington, D.C. The case’s importance, however, stems from the fact that it is the first time a U.S. jury charged someone with crimes against humanity. The Alien Tort Claims Act and the Torture Victim Protection Act w ­ ere both used to prosecute Fernández Larios, who other­wise would have been protected at the time by Chile’s amnesty law. Eu­ro­pean countries have also been quite active in prosecuting ­human rights cases over the last twenty years, especially Latin American cases, even if t­ hese cases do not always result in arrests or convictions. Countries like Belgium, France, Switzerland, Sweden, Germany, and Italy all brought charges against Latin American violators. Italy, for example, issued almost 150 arrest warrants in 2007 for former military and police officers throughout South Amer­i­ca who apparently w ­ ere involved with Operation Condor, and convicted a former Peruvian dictator in 2017. In 2005,

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Spain convicted Adolfo Scilingo, a member of Argentina’s military, for having drugged and thrown ­people from he­li­cop­ters during the dirty war; he was sentenced to more than 1,000 years in prison (though he ­will serve only thirty). Numerous similar cases are pending throughout Eu­rope. However, three developments have made foreign h ­ uman rights t­rials of Latin American perpetrators less likely ­today. First, the U.S. Supreme Court has issued several opinions that have the effect of limiting the applicability of the Alien Tort Statute.10 Second, with the creation of the International Criminal Court, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed a­ fter 2002 can be tried t­ here, lessening the necessity of foreign ­trials. Third, and most impor­tant, domestic ­trials have become much more common in Latin Amer­i­ca.

Conclusion: The Politics of Transitional Justice At the heart of most debates over transitional justice is a trade-­off: What are the costs of pursuing justice, and should justice be pursued at all costs? What if the cost of pursuing justice is instability, which could undermine demo­cratic rule and potentially lead to longer-­term ­human rights violations? Are amnesties (which prevent t­rials) acceptable if they end a war? ­These dilemmas help to explain why ­human rights accountability is so often imperfect and impunity persists. Post-­conflict socie­ties face a number of options in pursuing h ­ uman rights accountability. The po­liti­cal trade-­offs associated with transitional justice are evident, for example, when designing truth commissions. Choices have to be made about ­whether to hold public versus private hearings, to identify perpetrators, or to compensate victims. Latin Amer­i­ca’s experiences with truth commissions reveal the complex alternatives under­lying truth telling. In socie­ties with very weak l­egal systems, some have opted instead for personal retribution, represented most vividly by vigilante justice in Haiti. ­Human rights t­rials also pre­sent socie­ties with a range of options, including ­whether to hold ­trials nationally or abroad. Recent evidence suggests that foreign ­human rights ­trials—­whether in the United States, Eu­rope, or other Latin American countries—­are more prevalent when domestic ­legal ave­nues are foreclosed. Foreign ­trials, premised on notions of universal jurisdiction, give primacy to international norms. National ­human rights t­ rials, in turn, have certain advantages over international mechanisms like the International Criminal Court. Rather than being


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top-­down approaches, domestic t­ rials tend to emphasize the victims, potentially contributing more fully to national reconciliation. The region has played a significant role globally with regard to h ­ uman rights ­trials. Former heads of state with blood on their hands have had to curtail their travel itineraries for fear of extradition, knowing that their home countries might ultimately put them on trial. Increasingly, even ­legal protections like national amnesties, so crucial in perpetuating impunity throughout the region, are being undone. More and more, the question is not ­whether ­human rights ­trials should proceed but, rather, which ones and how soon. Given l­imited resources and the costliness of ­human rights ­trials, the question of who should be prosecuted continues to plague h ­ uman rights defenders. Should ­human rights ­trials focus mainly on the rank and file, or should they target the top of the command chain? Also, how far into the past should prosecutions reach? Is ­there a point when the po­liti­cal costs of a trial exceed the benefits of justice? Though a Mexican federal judge declared in 2007 that the Tlatelolco massacre of 1968 was a crime of genocide, prosecutions have not proceeded b­ ecause of the difficulty of retrieving evidence from so long ago. The costs of a ­human rights trial are indeed logistical as much as po­liti­cal. As full-­blown l­egal proceedings, ­these ­trials have a high l­egal threshold to meet. They must trace responsibility for h ­ uman rights violations meticulously, providing concrete evidence and crafting an airtight ­legal argument, regardless of the alleged perpetrator’s notoriety. In short, Latin Amer­i­ca has been at the forefront of h ­ uman rights accountability and impunity in the world. The proliferation of truth commissions and h ­ uman rights t­rials across the region reflects what some scholars have called a “justice cascade.”11 Despite this activism on behalf of transitional justice and evidence that transitional pro­cesses are not necessarily destabilizing, the net effects of truth commissions and t­rials are still difficult to pinpoint. One disagreement is over ­whether ­human rights ­trials can deter ­future violations. ­Will national leaders think twice before violating ­human rights, aware that they might face prosecution or at least public humiliation? Some ­people maintain that truth commissions and t­rials can at best have a catalytic effect, opening the door to incremental improvements. By this logic, impunity persists b­ ecause—­depending on the nature of a po­liti­cal transition and the conditions u ­ nder which the former regime left office—­ those implicated in past abuses often retain positions of power u ­ nder

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democracy. Lifting the cloud of impunity therefore depends on securing a sound demo­cratic transition that fundamentally redefines the interests of the state’s security apparatus. This can only occur incrementally. The choice between accountability and impunity is in practice a false one. The most that many transitional socie­ties can hope to do is to balance competing demands imperfectly, weighing the value of justice against the risk of instability. The varied experience of Latin Amer­i­ca and other regions with truth commissions and ­human rights ­trials confirms this pattern. Socie­ties grappling with how to restore justice ­after a period of horrific violations ­will reach dif­fer­ent conclusions, painfully aware that their ­future may depend on their h ­ andling of the past. We now turn to that past, which ­people across the region are still trying to overcome. Discussion Questions 1. Is truth without punishment ever sufficient for establishing h ­ uman rights accountability? 2. Do truth commission reports m ­ atter? How so? 3. Does compensating h ­ uman rights victims do more harm than good? Why? 4. Do h ­ uman rights ­trials deter f­ uture violations? Why? 5. Should h ­ uman rights violators be tried in their home countries or abroad? 6. Why has the “justice cascade” been so prevalent in Latin Amer­i­ca compared to other regions of the world? 7. How, if at all, can ­human rights impunity be overcome?

Resources Additional Reading Alexandra Barahona de Brito, Carmen González Enríquez, and Paloma Aguilar, eds., The Politics of Memory: Transitional Justice in Demo­cratizing Socie­ties (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001). Broad overview of transitional justice, with chapters devoted to the Southern Cone and Central Amer­i­ca. Jon Elster, Closing the Books: Transitional Justice in Historical Perspective (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004). A sophisticated, historical overview of transitional justice around the world, including Latin Amer­i­ca. Priscilla Hayner, Unspeakable Truths: Facing the Challenges of Truth Commis­ sions (New York: Routledge, 2002). A definitive text on truth commissions, surveying the global landscape. Christopher Joyce and Eric Stover, Witnesses from the Grave: The Stories Bones Tell (Boston: L ­ ittle, Brown, 1991). Dated but fascinating look at the work


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of Clyde Snow, leading forensic anthropologist, in Latin Amer­i­ca and elsewhere. Carlos A. Parodi, “State Apologies ­Under U.S. Hegemony,” in The Age of Apol­ ogy: Facing Up to the Past, ed. Mark Gibney, Rhoda E. Howard-­Hassmann, Jean-­Marc Coicaud, and Niklaus Steiner (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007). An overview of how truth commissions in Latin Amer­i­ca have accepted state responsibility for past abuses. Teresa Godwin Phelps, Shattered Voices: Language, Vio­lence, and the Work of Truth Commissions (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006). Innovative study of the importance of language in post-­conflict socie­ties struggling to balance truth, justice, and revenge. Naomi Roht-­A rriaza, The Pinochet Effect: Transnational Justice in the Age of ­Human Rights (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005). Detailed examination of the Pinochet case and its implications for transnational justice. Elin Skaar, Jemima García-­Godos, and Cath Collins, eds. Transitional Justice in Latin Amer­i­ca: The Uneven Road from Impunity T ­ owards Accountability (New York: Routledge, 2016). An explic­itly comparative approach to the region’s efforts. Lawrence Weschler, A Miracle, a Universe: Settling Accounts with Torturers (New York: Pantheon, 1990). Eyewitness accounts of how citizens in Brazil and Uruguay dealt with their former torturers. Richard Alan White, Breaking Silence: The Case That Changed the Face of ­Human Rights (Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 2004). Fast-­paced account of the Filártiga v. Peña-­Irala case. Filmography Death and the Maiden (1994). Feature film about a ­woman who encounters the man who tortured her in a Latin American prison years e­ arlier. 103 minutes. One Man’s War (1993). Feature film depicting the story of Dr. Joel Filártiga seeking justice for his son’s assassination. 91 minutes. Useful Websites Truth Commissions Digital Collection. Sponsored by the U.S. Institute for Peace, the site includes links to truth commission reports in Latin Amer­ i­ca and elsewhere through 2011. www​.­usip​.­org​/­publications​/­2011​/­03​/­truth​ -­commission​-­digital​-­collection. International Center for Transitional Justice. A wealth of information about transitional justice and h ­ uman rights accountability. www​.­ictj​.­org.


­Human Rights Cases

3 The Southern Cone Fernando, my ­brother, used to discuss a lot with me. In the tough times, he did not want to leave. . . . ​Fernando felt happy ­there, with his po­liti­cal activity in his neighborhood and psy­chol­ogy and po­liti­cal theory studies. He spoke softly, unlike me. . . . ​My ­mother dedicated most of her life to looking for him. She still wears the white handkerchief with his name. In the intimate moments of life at home, a disappearance acquires its real meaning. Th ­ ere is an empty chair, with no clear explanation. —­Marcelo Brodsky, commenting on his ­brother’s disappearance in Argentina in 1979


he countries of the Southern Cone are iconic cases in the study of  ­ human rights in Latin Amer­ i­ ca. During the Cold War, anti-­ communist dictators and military juntas ruled Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, and Paraguay, deploying similar tactics and collaborating in repression. Uruguay, previously considered the “Switzerland of the Amer­i­cas,” became instead the “torture capital of the Amer­i­cas,” the country with the highest per capita rate of po­liti­cal imprisonment in the world. Paraguay languished ­under dictator Alfredo Stroessner’s rule for thirty-­five years, during which he maintained a state of siege and martial law. But this chapter w ­ ill focus on Argentina and Chile. The richest countries in Latin Amer­i­ca, they descended into brutal authoritarianism in the 1970s, ­later transitioning to democracy and eventually taking steps to hold accountable ­human rights abusers from the authoritarian period. The role of

70 ­Human Rights Case brave, per­sis­tent, and savvy h ­ uman rights organ­izations was key to ­human rights pro­gress in both countries. Argentina and Chile s­ haped the image of Latin Amer­i­ca as a region of state terror in the 1970s, but they went on to set pre­ce­dents for pursuing transitional justice and transforming ­human rights practices.

Argentina’s Dirty War The period between 1976 and 1983 has come to be known as Argentina’s “dirty war,” a term now ascribed to other repressive regimes. A military junta took power in 1976 through a coup, quickly suspending basic rights and repressing anyone remotely considered a threat to national security. Using a complex system of clandestine detention centers, death squads dis­appeared and detained ­people from all walks of life. In the next four years, more than 30,000 ­people ­were killed or dis­appeared (their bodies often washing ashore in river beds or on the Uruguayan coast), with thousands more tortured. While the most intense period of violations occurred in the first two years of military rule, cases of egregious abuse persisted throughout the dirty war. Argentina had already known its share of vio­lence and military rule before the 1976 coup. A military coup in 1955, for example, led to more than 3,000 deaths. The 1976 coup had been preceded by about twenty other coups during the ­century. The dirty war occurred in the aftermath of a military regime that had installed itself in Argentina in 1966, adopting the national security rationale of its Brazilian neighbor. By 1969, student and l­abor groups, which had been particularly strong in the country’s modern history, mobilized and protested visibly against repressive conditions. The most symbolic event in this regard was the Cordobazo of 1969, when young p ­ eople and workers took to the streets in the heartland province of Córdoba and the military proceeded to crush social protest. Even during a brief interlude of civilian rule in the early 1970s, the military laid the foundations for complete control. Juan Perón, who had been Argentina’s president ­after World War II (famously married to Evita), returned from exile in Spain and was reelected president in 1973; he died a year ­later, and was succeeded by his third wife and vice president, Isabel Perón. All the while, the military continued to detain and torture dissidents ­under the cover of national security. Death squads, including the infamous ­Triple A (Argentine Anticommunist Alliance) also

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confronted armed leftists (e.g., the Montoneros) a­ fter 1970. Groups on both sides of the ideological spectrum clashed in an increasingly polarized conflict. Protecting the public from the terrorist bombings and kidnappings by the Montoneros and ­others became the military regime’s rationale for widespread repression a­ fter the coup in 1976. As the Night of the Pencils demonstrates, state repression went far beyond insurgents like the Montoneros: Anyone involved in the defense of the poor was a likely target, ­whether a priest committed to social justice, a college student involved in advocating for lower bus fares, or an artist dedicated to nonviolence. Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, trained as a sculptor and an architect, founded a co­a li­tion of Christian-­based organ­ izations promoting nonviolent responses to repression and poverty in Latin Amer­i­ca, Servicio Paz y Justicia (SERPAJ). He had criticized left-­ wing groups like the Montoneros and military and paramilitary vio­lence before the coup, but he became a key spokesperson for the desaparecidos (or dis­appeared) ­after the coup. For this, the regime imprisoned him for fourteen months and subjected him to repeated torture. In 1980, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. UP CLOSE: THE NIGHT OF THE PENCILS “The night of 16 September [1976] is sadly remembered in La Plata as the ‘Night of the Pencils.’ That night the following p ­ eople w ­ ere seized from their homes by the Security Forces and they are still on the list of the dis­appeared: Horacio Angel Ungaro (file No. 4205), Daniel Alberto Rasero (file No. 4205), Francisco López Muntaner (file No. 5479), María Claudia Falcone (file No. 2800), Victor Treviño (file No. 4018), Claudio de Acha (file No.  148), María Clara Ciocchini (file No.  1178). They formed part of a group of sixteen ­people, aged between fourteen and eigh­teen, who had taken part in a campaign in favour of school subsidies. Each of them was taken from their homes. The Buenos Aires Provincial Police had de­cided to punish every­one who had participated in the pro-­school subsidy campaign, ­because the Armed Forces considered it to be ‘subversion in the schoolroom.’ Three of the youngsters ­were freed. According to the inquiries carried out by this Commission, and witnesses’ accounts in the Commission’s possession, the young ­people seized w ­ ere killed a­ fter undergoing the most horrible tortures in dif­fer­ent secret detention centers.”

72 ­Human Rights Case The “Night of the Pencils” illustrates how ­children can be the targets of h ­ uman rights violations. In Argentina, about 1 ­percent of disappearances during the dirty war ­were of ­children ­under age 10; more than 10 ­percent of ­t hose dis­appeared ­were teen­agers, while more than half of all disappearances involved young p ­ eople in their twenties. In addition to being killed, parents ­were often abducted in front of their ­children. Kidnapped ­children ­were sometimes ­adopted by members of the military. Other ­children ­were born in captivity and ­were prone to a range of neuropsychological prob­lems. Still ­others ­were held at the same detention facilities as their parents, where they all ­were tortured. Source: CONADEP, Nunca Más: The Report of the Argentine National Commission for the Dis­appeared (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1986), 236–37.

Argentina’s dirty war illustrates dramatically the full reach of a repressive state apparatus. An extension of the physical abuse inflicted on victims was an explicit attempt to dehumanize the population, a goal partly achieved through the use of language. To this end, an entire linguistic system of categorizing p ­ eople as enemies was devised. In neighboring Uruguay, a system of labeling was similarly created, as ­people ­were assigned one of three letters (A, B, or C) depending on their potential for engaging in “subversive” activities, with dire consequences to follow; subversives ­were defined broadly to include students volunteering in poor neighborhoods or studying psy­chol­ogy. The Argentine regime labeled torture devices casually; for instance, an electric ­cattle prod, popu­lar in torture sessions, was called “Carolina.” The language of war, with all of its ramifications, was deployed alongside physical repression. Argentina’s dirty war therefore exemplifies a common tendency in po­liti­cal repression: Words are a crucial if overlooked form of terror, used to dehumanize opponents, sanitize repression, desensitize abusers, and engender unimaginable fear. Despite the enormous dangers, many activists in Argentina or­ga­nized and stood up to the repression, gradually building a strong network of domestic ­human rights organ­izations. Argentina is home to the most famous domestic h ­ uman rights NGO in all of Latin Amer­i­ca: the M ­ others of the Plaza de Mayo. ­Later, a second group emerged: the Grand­mothers of the Plaza de Mayo. Th ­ ese w ­ omen knew that hundreds of babies had been

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stolen from their detained parents and fought to find them and re­unite them with their surviving ­family members. UP CLOSE: M ­ OTHERS ON THE FRONT LINES On 30 April 1977, at the height of Argentina’s dirty war, fourteen brave ­women began what would become one of the world’s best-­k nown local ­human rights organ­izations. All they had in common was that their ­children had dis­appeared. It was mostly a spontaneous gathering; the ­women had met at hospitals, morgues, and government offices where they went to demand information about their missing ­children. It was only a m ­ atter of time before they ended up at Plaza de Mayo, the central square in Buenos Aires where the presidential palace—­the Pink House—is located. Between 1977 and 2006, they gathered ­every Thursday after­noon at the same place, wearing white scarves on their heads. In total, they staged more than 1,500 demonstrations. ­These white scarves, and the image of the ­mothers marching peacefully in the square, became emblazoned in the minds of observers around the world. Certainly, they ­were not alone in opposing the government’s abuses, but they ­were unique as a ­human rights organ­ization: They challenged the state overtly in a central public space, and they did so nonviolently and nonpo­liti­cally, as ­mothers. How could a government that so often invoked the traditional language of motherhood openly target a group that embodied its stated ideals? It did not. Instead, it chose to attack some of them clandestinely. Several of the organ­ization’s members, including three of its found­ers, w ­ ere imprisoned or dis­appeared. The influence of the Madres de Plaza de Mayo took them to the capitals of Eu­rope, the UN offices in Geneva, and the steps of the U.S. Congress, where representatives of Las Madres forged transnational alliances that pressured Argentina’s ruling junta. In the pro­cess, Las Madres garnered international awards; shared the stage with U2, which named a song ­a fter them; and inspired countless activists around the world. Argentine president Néstor Kirchner declared in 2003: “We are all M ­ others of the Plaza de Mayo.” Source: President Kirchner’s quote is from Regina  M. Anavy, “Hope Ends 29-­Year March of ­Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo,” San Francisco Chronicle, 26 February 2006.

74 ­Human Rights Case

FIGURE  6. The ­Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo stage a peaceful protest in Buenos Aires during the dictatorship, 1982. Daniel Garcia/AFP/Getty Images.

Relatives of the dis­appeared played impor­tant roles in other Argentine NGOs as well. Emilio Mignone, an Argentine l­ awyer whose d ­ aughter was dis­appeared by the military in 1976, joined other relatives of the dis­ appeared to form the Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (Center for ­Legal and Social Studies, CELS). NGOs like this would play a key role in denouncing abuses in Argentina, networking with international partners, and calling for ­human rights accountability. ­These groups remain highly engaged ­today. Domestic activists in Argentina found crucial partners in nongovernmental organ­izations outside the region. In the United States, outrage about U.S. support for Southern Cone repression led to the formation of the Washington Office on Latin Amer­i­ca. WOLA joined loud criticism of Argentina by London-­based Amnesty International and o­ thers. Th ­ ese NGOs worked with their Argentine counter­parts to gather information and to persuade U.S. lawmakers to change policy. Pressure intensified when Jimmy Car­ter took office in 1977. Before then, the signals the military juntas had received from the highest echelons of the U.S. government had been highly contradictory: public condemnation of h ­ uman rights violations alongside private encouragement to bring “terrorist

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subversives” ­under control. At the time, U.S. foreign policy was ­shaped above all by Henry Kissinger, who served as secretary of state and national security adviser during the Nixon and Ford administrations. Kissinger opposed even discussing h ­ uman rights within the context of foreign policy and saw the military regimes in Chile and Argentina as Cold War allies unfairly attacked by leftist critics. He told the Argentine generals in 1976, “If ­there are ­things that have to be done, you should do them quickly.”1 Given t­ hese mixed signals, it is not surprising that ­human rights pressure and sanctions initially seemed to produce nondramatic results. Argentine activists also turned to the Inter-­A merican Commission on ­Human Rights (a body of the Organ­ization of American States, discussed in Chapter 10). With increased financial support from the Car­ter administration and the leadership of vocal ­human rights advocates from across the region, the commission began carry­ing out on-­site investigations and issuing damning reports. In 1979, Argentine activists connected the on-­ site investigators from the commission with hundreds of victims and ­family members, who lined up for hours to provide their testimony. The IACHR report called for the prosecution of h ­ uman rights violators in Argentina—­ something almost unheard of in the world at that time.2 Even as pressure intensified, however, the regime responded with a mix of strategies. On the one hand, it denied violations and accused foreigners of interfering in the country’s internal affairs. On the other hand, it paid lip ser­vice to ­human rights and made certain concessions, such as releasing prisoners and permitting foreign h ­ uman rights monitors into the country. For example, Amnesty International a­dopted Juan Méndez, an Argentine ­human rights l­awyer, as its “Prisoner of Conscience”; a­ fter his release in 1977, Méndez moved to the United States and helped establish the “Amer­i­cas Watch” division within ­Human Rights Watch. Yet t­ hese ­were clearly concessions more than meaningful reforms. It would take an unexpected turn of events to weaken the Argentine junta.

Argentina’s Transition The country, already reeling from an economic crisis, suffered a crushing defeat in a short-­lived war against the United Kingdom for the small Malvinas (Falkland) Islands. Given the military’s weakness, the strength of the ­human rights movement proved overwhelming. Military defeat was

76 ­Human Rights Case the tipping point, and the regime at last collapsed. Civil society at large saw an opening and demanded a return to democracy. Yet regimes rarely change seamlessly, as parts of the old system linger. In Argentina, despite massive protests in opposition, the military passed a self-­amnesty law on its way out the door: a prohibition on any prosecution of anyone connected to the military regime. In December 1983, Raúl Alfonsín, a member of the Permanent Assembly for H ­ uman Rights, became Argentina’s first post–­dirty war president. Two of his first acts ­were to revoke the amnesty law and establish a National Commission on the Dis­ appeared (CONADEP). Its final report included more than 50,000 pages of evidence of ­human rights abuses, identified numerous mass graves, and recorded more than 9,000 forced disappearances between 1976 and 1983. Gathering this information in a mere nine months required close cooperation with the domestic ­human rights NGOs that had been gathering information throughout this period. T ­ oday, CONADEP is considered the first successful truth commission in the world. It would establish a model repeated across much of Latin Amer­i­ca and the world. An abbreviated version of its final report, titled Nunca Más, remains a best seller. CONADEP and Argentine activists again reached out to international partners for assistance, this time to deal with the huge number of exhumed remains they had helped unearth. The American Association for the Advancement of Science sent a del­e­ga­tion to Argentina. Among the delegates was Clyde Snow, who helped establish the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team. This was the first forensic team in the world to identify the remains of ­human rights victims. Using DNA and other tests, they sought to establish the identity of the victims, often found in unmarked mass graves—­whether to bring relief to grieving relatives, establish the truth for the truth’s sake, or challenge the ­legal impunity of perpetrators. The ­Mothers and Grand­mothers of the Plaza de Mayo continued to drive initiatives to identify c­ hildren stolen from their parents during the dirty war: By November 2018, 128 had been identified, and many of them had been re­united with their families.3 The overwhelming evidence of crimes against humanity encouraged ­human rights advocates to call for t­ rials. CONADEP forwarded evidence for 1,500 judicial cases. Though ­today it seems natu­ral that evidence of ­human rights abuses w ­ ill be followed by calls for prosecutions, in the 1980s, it was novel, to say the least. Since the Nuremberg ­trials at the end of World War II, only two countries anywhere (Greece and Portugal) had held state officials criminally accountable for ­human rights violations. Throughout

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the world, impunity reigned. The idea that a country could put ­human rights abusers on trial seemed impossibly idealistic. Remarkably, Argentina charged nine of the highest-­ranking members of the dirty-­war junta with ­human rights violations. In a widely publicized set of ­trials beginning in 1985, high-­ranking officers ­were sentenced to life imprisonment—­including General Jorge Videla, head of the ruling junta. (Note that life imprisonment is the highest acceptable punishment in international h ­ uman rights law.) Immediately ­after the prosecutions, however, the government came u ­ nder po­liti­cal fire for opening a Pandora’s box: Where would the government stop in prosecuting violators? Would the ­legal system be overwhelmed? And would further prosecutions polarize society and undermine demo­cratic stability? Sectors of the military attempted coups, provoking widespread fear that a new, perhaps even more brutal military regime might come to power. Caving in to the pressure, the government clamped down on accountability. Congress passed two controversial laws in 1986 and 1987, respectively: the Final Stop Law (Ley de Punto Final) and the Due Obedience Law (Ley de Obediencia Debida). The Final Stop Law put an end to any further prosecutions involving ­human rights crimes during the dirty war; the Due Obedience Law made it impossible for lower-­level members of the military to be prosecuted for ­human rights crimes on the basis that they ­were “following o­ rders.” And in 1990, in an unexpected move, President Carlos Meném pardoned General Videla and other members of the dirty-­war junta. The door appeared to be effectively shut on further prosecutions. Over the next de­cade, Meném and Congress approved reparations programs, through which relatives of a dis­appeared person could receive a lump sum of $220,000, the equivalent of 100 months of salary for the highest-­paid civil servant. This issue deeply divided ­human rights organ­ izations, including the M ­ others of the Plaza de Mayo, as some wanted to accept reparations and ­others saw them as “blood money,” or an attempt to buy off h ­ uman rights defenders and to blunt demands for justice. Demands for ­human rights accountability can be surprisingly resilient, however. Domestic activists and their international allies never let up, using private prosecutions and loopholes in the amnesty law to continue advancing t­rials against dirty-­ war criminals. In 2005, Argentina’s Supreme Court declared the Final Stop and Due Obedience Laws unconstitutional, claiming that amnesty laws ­were inapplicable to crimes against humanity. In a landmark case in 2006, a former Buenos Aires police officer was found

78 ­Human Rights Case guilty of genocide, but not before one witness was dis­appeared and judges ­were threatened. Likewise, in 2007, a federal court in Argentina overturned Meném’s p ­ ardons, reopening h ­ uman rights t­ rials. In the years since, more than 3,000 p ­ eople have been charged for crimes related to the dirty war; by November 2018, 867 had been convicted and 110 had been acquitted. Among ­those convicted ­were twelve participants in Operation Condor (see below), each sentenced to twenty-­five years in prison. Most of the men facing ­human rights ­trials in Argentina are now el­derly and face the prospect of ending their lives disgraced and u ­ nder ­house arrest.4 Argentina has remained a democracy since 1983 despite repeated economic crises, and the government has long since asserted civilian authority over the military. National politics has been dominated by politicians espousing social demo­cratic ideals that would have been anathema to the military regime. T ­ oday, the Navy Mechanics School, the most notorious torture chamber of the dirty war, has been converted into a museum, the Space for Memory and the Promotion and Defense of H ­ uman Rights. And, as we ­will see in Chapter 7, the strength of the h ­ uman rights movement in Argentina also had spillover effects for ­women’s rights and LGBTQ rights. No country in Latin Amer­i­ca has gone farther than Argentina on the journey from impunity to accountability, and Argentine ­human rights defenders have worked hard to support other countries in implementing truth commissions, reparations, ­human rights t­rials, and a deep commitment to ­human rights. Many countries have borrowed ideas from Argentina, which was a pioneer in truth commissions, forensics for ­human rights, overturning amnesties, and more, but few if any have benefited from as strong a network of ­human rights organ­izations driving change. The Argentine path ­toward accountability was watched especially closely by its neighbor, Chile.

Chile U ­ nder Pinochet Chile’s turn ­toward authoritarianism predates the Argentine dirty war by several years. On 11 September  1973—­which may be called the first 9/11—­Chile’s demo­cratically elected president, Salvador Allende, was ousted from office in a violent coup led by General Augusto Pinochet. ­Until then, Chile was widely considered to have the region’s longest-­standing democracy. A ­ fter bombing the presidential palace and assuming the reins of power, Chile’s military and police forces quickly took control of the population and dramatically overturned a tradition of not intervening in

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politics. Nowhere was this surreal scene played out more vividly than in the country’s National Stadium, usually reserved for soccer matches like the 1962 World Cup. Days a­ fter the coup, the stadium was turned into a massive detention center, holding 40,000 prisoners. With ­music blaring from loudspeakers to block out victims’ screams, detainees ­were tortured and killed in the locker rooms and interior of the stadium while o­ thers awaited their fate in the main quad. Nineteen days a­ fter the coup, as the horrors of the National Stadium continued, Pinochet appointed General Sergio Arellano Stark as his official delegate and charged him with traveling the country to ensure that the same policies being implemented in the capital city of Santiago ­were applied throughout the country. Thus Arellano Stark along with ten army officers boarded a Puma he­li­cop­ter on 30 September 1973, and systematically traversed the country. In just three weeks, they left almost 100 po­ liti­cal prisoners dead, most of whom w ­ ere taken out and shot at night. Their trip became known as the “caravan of death.” As one witness described the del­e­ga­tion, “It seems to me that one of the reasons for the mission was to set a drastic pre­ce­dent in order to terrorize the presumed willingness of the Chilean p ­ eople to fight back. But without a doubt, it was also intended to instill fear and terror among the commanders. To prevent any military personnel, down to [the] lowest ranking officers, from taking a false step: this could happen to you!”5 UP CLOSE: WITNESSES TO CHILEAN ATROCITIES “It was August 4, 1976, at four ­o’clock in the after­noon, when [Doctor] Carlos Godoy Lagarrigue, aged 39, left the San Bernardo Hospital by car. He had just finished his daily ward round and was as usual on his way to his outpatient clinic in La Granja. . . . ​He never arrived. Somewhere along the way, he vanished and has not been seen or heard of since. His wife and ­children waited at home that eve­ning, and continued to wait for years and years.” “He was 18 and was studying at the Liceo Industrial. He was on an outing when they arrested and killed him.” “They allowed my brother-­in-­law and me to dig up about twenty graves. Fi­nally we came across one whose build was like my husband’s but he had no arms and legs. We buried him to put my in-­laws at ease. I’m sure we buried someone ­else.”

80 ­Human Rights Case “They shot him on the road near our ­house. I heard the shots, and I came out and found his body. They yelled at me to go bury the dog that had just been killed. That dog was my only son. They gave me three hours to bury him and get out of town. I had to wrap him in a blanket, get an oxcart, and leave him in the cemetery.” “He was useful to society. Why should they eliminate him? He was good in sports and at chess.” “They hung him from a crane. He was in such bad shape as we ­were returning to the cell, that we wrapped him up, and helped him  down the narrow staircase. He was very much beaten up and traumatized. When no one was looking, he threw himself over into the bottom of a hatchway. He ­couldn’t endure one more day of torture.” “I had searched for him so much. I went down to the beach to cry, and t­ here he was, all swollen with bullet wounds. They had pulled out his teeth.” “They brought my son to my cell, unconscious and all bruised from torture.” “I took them where my son was ­because they promised me that they would treat him well. I wanted to save the younger ones from abuse. They killed him just the same.” “While they ­were raping me, my husband was screaming at them to let me go.” “When they took my f­ ather, they took my husband and me as well. I was raped by a w ­ hole group that was guarding me. I never told my husband. That was fifteen years ago.” “I got married on August 5. By October 5, I was a w ­ idow. Why did they deprive me of my chance to be happy with my husband?” “I was six months pregnant when they killed my husband. My ­little baby was never born; I ­couldn’t hold it back.” “They arrested them b ­ ecause they d ­ idn’t have their identification cards. They ­were minors and ­weren’t po­liti­cally active. ­A fter all, they ­were practically illiterate. And they shot them to death.” Source: Chilean National Commission on Truth and Reconciliation, Report of the Chilean National Commission on Truth and Reconciliation (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press with Center for ­Human Rights, Notre Dame Law School, 1991), Part III, chap. 4.

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Pinochet’s rule would last seventeen years, from 1973 to 1990. During this period, h ­ uman rights violations spiked twice. The most concentrated volume of ­human rights violations occurred in the immediate aftermath of the coup, as illustrated above, although a relatively high level of abuse continued u ­ ntil 1976 u ­ nder the leadership of Chile’s intelligence service—­ the National Intelligence Directorate (DINA). A resurgence in po­liti­cal vio­lence occurred in the mid-1980s, when state agents killed scores of ­people. Between t­ hese prominent episodes of abuse, a steady stream of vio­ lence prevailed. This regime of terror was based on a policy of indiscriminate killings, clandestine detention centers, and the systematic torture of opponents. More than 3,000 p ­ eople ­were killed or dis­appeared, and another 38,000 ­were detained and tortured. The Argentine and Chilean military regimes shared a commitment to defeating communism and insurgency at home, though in real­ity ­t hese groups w ­ ere small and grossly outgunned by government security forces. The national security doctrine sweeping Latin Amer­i­ca at the time was supported by the United States, which saw even demo­cratically elected socialists like Salvador Allende as threats within the context of the Cold War. Anti-­communist regimes across the Amer­i­cas coordinated with one another, most obviously through Operation Condor. UP CLOSE: OPERATION CONDOR In a secret meeting held in Santiago, Chile, in November 1975, the intelligence and security ser­v ices of five South American countries—­ Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay—­agreed to set up a regional network of repression; Brazil soon joined in the endeavor. Orchestrated by Chile’s notorious intelligence ser­v ice (DINA), military and police forces in the region pooled their resources and exchanged information to detain, torture, and kill alleged subversives. In addition to conducting operations across one another’s borders, Operation Condor reached as far as France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, and the United States (where two p ­ eople w ­ ere assassinated in 1976 by a car bomb in downtown Washington, D.C.). While not directly involved in Operation Condor, the governments of Peru, Colombia, and Venezuela also filtered intelligence to the Southern Cone regimes. Rec­ords of this transnational repressive network emerged in 1992, when a Paraguayan judge discovered the “terror archives” in a suburban

82 ­Human Rights Case police station of Asunción. The gruesome details of the network w ­ ere revealed: Operation Condor had been responsible for 50,000 deaths, 30,000 disappearances, and 400,000 detentions. The operation ceased to exist formally in 1983, when Argentina’s dirty war ended, although transnational cooperation among intelligence ser­v ices and some killings continued through the 1980s. Declassified  U.S. State Department documents suggest that the United States may have been a s­ ilent partner b ­ ehind Operation Condor. In a 1978 cable, the U.S. ambassador in Paraguay referred to a “U.S. communications installation in the Panama Canal Zone” (Condor-­Tel) used to coordinate information exchange by the intelligence chiefs ­running Operation Condor. Other declassified documents reveal that U.S. agencies (including the CIA, FBI, and Defense and State Departments) knew about and approved of Condor’s existence. The case of Jorge Isaac Fuentes Alarcón, a Chilean sociologist, illustrates this collusion. In mid-1975, Paraguayan police detained Fuentes Alarcón as he crossed the border from Argentina. An FBI agent in Buenos Aires purportedly notified the Chilean military of his arrest and revealed the names and addresses of U.S. residents Fuentes Alarcón had mentioned during interrogation. He was then handed over to Chilean police, transferred to a detention fa­cil­i­ty, subsequently tortured, and permanently dis­appeared. Sources: For access to 16,000 relevant documents declassified by the United States in 2000, see National Security Archive, Chile Documentation Proj­ect, www​.­g wu​.­edu​/­~nsarchiv​/­news​/­20001113. The case of Fuentes Alarcón is from Chilean National Commission on Truth and Reconciliation, Report of the Chilean National Commission on Truth and Reconciliation (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press with Center for ­Human Rights, Notre Dame Law School, 1991), Part III, chap. 2.

Like Argentina, the Chilean regime faced international scrutiny, including by many NGOs and some members of the U.S. Congress. Exiles from Chile joined American activists (some of whom had traveled to Chile in previous years) to funnel information about the widespread torture and po­ liti­cal imprisonment to the press and members of Congress. Indeed, it was Orlando Letelier’s success in ­doing so that prompted Chile to assassinate him in Washington, D.C. During a meeting in 1976, Kissinger told

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Pinochet, “In the United States, as you know, we are sympathetic with what you are trying to do h ­ ere. . . . ​We want to help, not undermine you.” But by that point, h ­ uman rights activists had brought so much attention to the abuses in Chile that even Kissinger felt compelled to ­gently pressure Pinochet to improve the situation so that the United States could continue providing economic and military aid to Chile.6 The Chilean regime made concessions. For example, the regime closed the intelligence ser­vice (DINA) that had overseen massive abuses, a welcome change; yet in its place it created the Centro Nacional de Información (CNI), which shared personnel and procedures with the former service—­a make­over rather than a real transformation. Likewise, h ­ uman rights monitors in Chile ­were escorted on carefully controlled visits, led through cells from which prisoners had been removed and prisons reconstructed before the visits. Among the most striking concessions was Pinochet’s decision to issue a new constitution, one that included ­human rights safeguards. Despite such concessions, the United States and many other countries withdrew aid from Chile and imposed sanctions beginning in 1976. The intensification of ­human rights pressures did lead to a decline in violations in both Chile and Argentina, although this decline was far from uniform. In both countries, the overall number of disappearances fell, while the level of torture ­either remained the same or increased over time. Differences also existed between urban and rural areas, with ­human rights violations improving in some locations but staying the same or even worsening in ­others. This variance suggests that the effectiveness of ­human rights pressures is never perfectly predictable. In the Southern Cone, h ­ uman rights violations declined only when armed groups ­were no longer active, ­either ­because they had gone under­ground or ­because they had been killed by the state. Yet absent transnational ­human rights pressures, the juntas in Santiago and Buenos Aires would have had l­ittle incentive to change their be­hav­ior at all.

Chile’s Transition Chile’s transition was set in motion ­after a wave of local protests in Chile in 1983 and 1984 w ­ ere met by heavy repression. Unfortunately for the regime, this repression coincided with the Reagan administration’s new policy of promoting h ­ uman rights and democracy, which quickly led to a rise in transnational pressure against Chile’s junta. At the same time, a broad

84 ­Human Rights Case alliance of civil society groups joined forces in Chile. In 1988, Pinochet stunned every­one by calling for a referendum that he expected to win. The ­gamble backfired, as 57 ­percent of Chileans voted to oust Pinochet. Pressured by dif­ fer­ent sectors, the Chilean general saw no other ave­nue than to step down. It was in the aftermath of this decision that democracy returned. Whereas the Argentine military junta left office disgraced by economic mismanagement and decisive defeat in the Malvinas, Pinochet left power amid a roaring economy and a “pacted transition”—­one in which the military retained extensive po­liti­cal power. A 1978 amnesty law and 1980 constitution giving military commanders and Pinochet himself seats in the Senate seemed to guarantee impunity. In 1990, Pinochet handed the presidency over to Patricio Aylwin. A National Commission for Truth and Reconciliation issued a report in 1991, and reparations ­were issued. But in terms of ­human rights t­rials, nothing was accomplished. Next door, Argentina had passed the Full Stop and Due Obedience Laws, and it appeared that ­human rights accountability remained out of reach in the Southern Cone. All of this began to change late one October night in 1998, when Pinochet—­who was in London for back surgery—­was arrested in his hospital room. The arrest set in motion a wave of unanticipated hope around the world. A former head of state faced pos­si­ble extradition and prosecution for ­human rights crimes committed while in office. This was a remarkable development, since traditionally heads of state have been immune from prosecution; state sovereignty had always trumped ­human rights accountability. Even the military leaders convicted in Argentina’s Trial of the Juntas had been pardoned years before. A new chance for accountability, however, appeared to be opening with Pinochet’s arrest. An in­ter­est­ing twist on Pinochet’s London arrest is that it originated in Spain. Spain’s request to try Pinochet may seem strange at first glance: Why would Spain have jurisdiction over Pinochet? Moreover, why should the United Kingdom extradite a Chilean leader temporarily on its territory to another country? The rationale was ­simple but revolutionary. According to the concept of universal jurisdiction in international law, anyone can be held accountable in any country for ­human rights crimes committed anywhere. Furthermore, the Spanish government requested that the Chilean general be extradited to Spain for having tortured Spanish citizens. The 500-­day detention of Pinochet in London proved to be a roller-­ coaster r­ ide of l­egal and po­liti­cal twists and turns. The House of Lords found that Pinochet could be extradited for cases of torture but only for

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crimes committed ­after December 1988—­long a­ fter the worst abuses had taken place.7 Unfortunately, governments and not courts often have the last word in extradition. Although British courts had considered the question of ­whether the UK had jurisdiction to extradite Pinochet, extradition itself was the government’s decision. Divisions quickly surfaced once Pinochet petitioned that he was ill and mentally unsound to stand trial. British Home Secretary Jack Straw, though an active opponent of Pinochet’s regime in the 1970s, chose to disregard the House of Lords’ decision. Po­liti­ cal calculations carried the day; on 3 March 2000, the British government allowed Pinochet to return to Chile. The Pinochet case could not have gotten as far as it did without the zeal and determination of teams of ­lawyers, judges, and NGOs, as well as victims and their relatives. The ­lawyer who filed the first case against Pinochet (Joan Garcés) was a Spanish-­born twenty-­year-­old adviser to socialist president Salvador Allende when the 1973 coup broke out in Chile. He managed to flee the burning presidential palace in Santiago and escape to his native Spain. Two de­cades l­ater, he began working assiduously to prosecute Pinochet. Another key figure was Judge Baltasar Garzón, a maverick Spanish judge who made a ­career of pursuing high-­profile controversial cases. Equally impor­tant was the role played by h ­ uman rights organ­izations and Latin American exile groups in Eu­rope. For example, Amnesty International, which had been tracking Pinochet’s visits to Britain for years, was first to notify Spanish ­lawyers that Pinochet was in London. Once the case went to court, groups like Amnesty International and ­Human Rights Watch offered invaluable ­legal assistance. The contacts, publicity, and information that exile groups in Spain generated also played a crucial role in early litigation. ­These groups facilitated information flow from Latin Amer­ i­ca, which proved essential for documenting evidence of past abuse. Exile groups also mobilized public support by disseminating stories in the media and protesting publicly, including holding daily vigils outside Pinochet’s London hospital. Even if Pinochet’s return to Chile was not the desired outcome of activist and exile groups, the case set an impor­tant pre­ce­dent. A maelstrom of controversy was set off with Pinochet’s return to Chile. By the time he landed on the tarmac in Santiago, more than sixty complaints had been lodged against him in Chile. This did not stop hundreds of supporters from greeting him or prevent confrontations between Pinochet supporters and opponents.

86 ­Human Rights Case Judge Juan Guzmán, the leading judge in Chile prosecuting Pinochet, had his work cut out for him. The major challenge he faced was how to bypass the 1978 amnesty law, which Pinochet had savvily put in place so that no one in the regime could be held accountable for h ­ uman rights crimes committed a­ fter the 1973 coup. Judge Guzmán nonetheless found a loophole: He portrayed disappearances in which bodies had not been recovered as ongoing crimes subject to prosecution. ­There was also a policy that Chile’s president Aylwin had issued on the heels of the truth commission report, stating that h ­ uman rights crimes committed during the amnesty period could be investigated but not prosecuted. The idea b­ ehind the policy—­which came to be known as the Aylwin Doctrine—­was to provide relatives of the dis­appeared access to the truth, helping them to determine the fate of their loved ones even though punishing the perpetrators was not an option. Given the government’s desire to secure investor confidence, admitting past abuses promised to achieve two simultaneous goals: appeasing h ­ uman rights demands while avoiding punishment of the armed forces. Partial accountability would be the price of regime stability. Another dramatic turn occurred in 2004, when Santiago’s Court of Appeals issued the first sentence for forced disappearances, a crime u ­ ntil then protected by the amnesty law. In its judgment, reminiscent of the Spanish court’s own nonrecognition of Chilean amnesty laws, the court drew heavi­ly on international law. It cited the Inter-­A merican Convention on Forced Disappearance of Persons, which was signed by Chile, and decisions by the Inter-­A merican Court of H ­ uman Rights, which had found that forced disappearances constitute crimes against humanity not subject to national amnesties; as well as Pinochet’s 1980 constitution, which ironically granted h ­ uman rights treaties constitutional status. This judgment would not have been pos­si­ble without a series of reforms that began in 1998 that expanded the size of the Supreme Court and implemented a mandatory retirement age for justices. Consequently, a generational shift in about half of the justices moved the courts to a post-­Pinochet era, where rule of law outweighed po­liti­cal allegiances and where h ­ uman rights accountability was at least pos­si­ble. Pinochet was periodically placed u ­ nder h ­ ouse arrest, but he was released ­every time e­ ither due to ailing health or by posting bail. Chilean courts also went back and forth, stripping him of his immunity for certain crimes, then declaring him unfit to stand trial, then reversing back to place him

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­ nder ­house arrest. His last indictment in 2006 was for torture and killings u committed in Villa Grimaldi, Chile’s most notorious detention center. Moreover, Pinochet faced charges of massive tax fraud and embezzlement. In the end, Pinochet would not be sentenced for any crimes. He died on 10 December 2006—­ironically, International ­Human Rights Day. Protesters took to the streets, and Chilean society—­still polarized about Pinochet’s legacy—­was at least no longer s­ ilent about past abuses and the possibility of ­human rights accountability. If ­there is any poetic justice in Pinochet having died on International H ­ uman Rights Day, it is this: Pinochet may not have been punished for his crimes, but the atrocities he committed turned him into a global symbol of a dictator on trial. Even national leaders can be pursued for crimes against humanity. Within Chile, the Pinochet case broke societal silence about past violations and legitimized the notion of h ­ uman rights prosecutions. On balance, the Pinochet case had far-­reaching effects in Chile, especially by empowering the ­human rights movement. As a Chilean sociologist and rights advocate put it, “We fi­nally felt f­ree to discuss and say t­ hings that ­were considered taboo even a­ fter years of civilian rule.”8 More broadly, the Pinochet case left a profound mark on transnational justice. Pinochet’s arrest in London turned on its head centuries of conventional wisdom. State security was no longer a legally valid rationale for violating basic ­human rights. The case in Eu­rope also pressured the Chilean government to pursue h ­ uman rights accountability more aggressively than it other­wise would have. Activists fighting for accountability across Latin Amer­i­ca took heart; in places like Argentina, the years a­ fter Pinochet’s arrest brought major breakthroughs, inextricably intertwining Pinochet’s story with the broader story of impunity and justice in the region. ­Today, more than 1,100 criminal cases have been opened within Chile for Pinochet-­era ­human rights violations. As in Argentina, this has not resulted in military coups; that possibility seems more remote in the Southern Cone than anywhere ­else in Latin Amer­i­ca. The brutal facts that truth commissions and ­trials brought to light seemed to have contributed to longer-­term stability. Indeed, the pursuit of h ­ uman rights accountability has been part of the consolidation of democracy and the rule of law in Chile, but in the eyes of h ­ uman rights defenders, it has also been too ­little and too late. Fewer convictions have been reached in Chile than in Argentina and, as court cases have dragged on for years or even de­cades, survivors and families of victims express frustration and heartbreaking

88 ­Human Rights Case disappointment. Th ­ ose who have been convicted have often enjoyed lenient sentences, relatively luxurious conditions in special prison facilities, and early release.9 Still, the conviction of 139 state agents in two court decisions in 2017 suggested the possibility of new momentum.10 Chile’s transformation has been impressive. In 2019, Chile was rocked by massive protests focused on social and economic realities. Young ­people and pensioners alike decried the in­equality that leaves so many citizens of this wealthy country without adequate health care and educational opportunities and the tendency of government to prioritize businesses and their profits over citizens’ well-­being. Trust in po­liti­cal parties, the legislature, and the president w ­ ere at an all-­time low. President Sebastián Piñera conceded to the demand for a referendum that would abandon Pinochet’s 1980 constitution and write a new one. A year ­after the protests began, most voters endorsed the creation of a constitutional assembly. Legislative rules called for an assembly with gender parity, meaning the constitution would be written by a group with equal repre­sen­ta­tion of men and ­women—­and would be led by a Mapuche w ­ oman. The extraordinarily diverse assembly elected in 2021 was filled with social movement leaders, in­de­pen­dents, indigenous ­people, and other historically marginalized groups motivated by this historic opportunity to shift Chile’s neoliberal and conservative constitution in a direction that reflects the public demands of ­today, including a public pension system, environmental protections, and military accountability. Chile t­oday is a radically dif­fer­ent place than it was ­under Pinochet, thanks not only to a transnational alliance of forces but also, above all, to a broad social movement demanding better from their government.

Conclusion The strug­gle for h ­ uman rights accountability defined the early twenty-­first ­century in the Southern Cone, as much as po­liti­cal terror defined the 1970s and impunity defined the 1980s and 1990s. Despite the existence of international h ­ uman rights pressure against Uruguay and Paraguay, weaker ­human rights movements inside ­these countries meant a weaker transnational network. This did not stop Uruguay and Paraguay from demo­cratizing, holding truth commissions, delivering reparations, and sending at least some perpetrators to prison. A new era of accountability has variously taken root in the Southern Cone.

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FIGURE 7. Augusto Pinochet in 1997. No longer president, he remained head of the armed forces. H ­ ere, he attends a commemoration of the 1973 coup. Chris Bouroncle/Getty Images.

Some of the countries’ new demo­cratic leaders symbolized the scope of ­these changes. Michelle Bachelet became Chile’s first female president, serving two terms (2006–10 and 2014–18). Her f­ ather had been detained immediately ­after the 1973 coup and subjected to daily torture ­until he died of a cardiac arrest. His wife and d ­ aughter w ­ ere detained and tortured in Villa Grimaldi, the regime’s principal detention camp, but then allowed to go into exile in Australia and then East Germany. Bachelet eventually returned to Chile and enjoyed an illustrious ­career in medicine, military strategy, and politics. She ultimately won the presidency as a member of the Socialist Party of Chile. During her time in office, she implemented social reforms in the fields of medical care, social ser­vices, and education. Between her terms as president, she led UN ­Women; following her second term, she was appointed UN High Commissioner for ­Human Rights. José Mujica served as Uruguay’s president from 2010 to 2015. His time as a Tupamaro guerrilla in the 1960s led to his imprisonment for more than

90 ­Human Rights Case a dozen years, beginning in the 1970s. He was routinely tortured and subjected to extended periods of solitary confinement, including more than two years spent at the bottom of an abandoned well. As president, he donated nearly all of his income to Uruguay’s poor and small businesspeople. Few of the countries explored in the chapters ahead have changed as radically or advanced as far in the strug­gle for transitional justice. The Southern Cone cases reveal, in par­tic­u­lar, the power of domestic h ­ uman rights defenders and their strategic partnerships with international allies. Pressures against abusive military regimes raised the costs of violating ­human rights, making abuses both vis­i­ble and unacceptable. Discussion Questions 1. What ­were the key ­factors that led ­t hese countries to transition back to democracy? 2. Why did it take so long for ­human rights ­trials to gain momentum in Argentina and Chile? 3. Is the Pinochet case, on balance, cause for hope or disappointment? 4. Are amnesties acceptable if they facilitate a return to democracy or the end of a period of vio­lence?

Resources Additional Reading Cristina Aldini, Liliana Gardella, and Munu Actis, eds., That Inferno: Con­ versations of Five ­Women Survivors of an Argentine Torture Camp (Nashville, Tenn.: Vanderbilt University Press, 2006). Firsthand recollections by former female torture victims. Luz Arce, Inferno: A Story of Terror and Survival in Chile, trans. Stacey Alba Skar (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2004). Memoir by a Chilean female torture survivor, turned collaborator, who testified against the regime ­under democracy. Rita Arditti, Searching for Life: The Grand­mothers of the Plaza de Mayo and the Dis­appeared C ­ hildren of Argentina (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999). The definitive account of Argentina’s Grand­mothers’ organ­ ization, including extensive firsthand testimony. Lorena Balardini, “Argentina: Regional Protagonist of Transitional Justice,” in Elin Skaar, Jemima García-­Godos, and Cath Collins, eds. Transi­ tional Justice in Latin Amer­i­ca: The Uneven Road from Impunity T ­ owards

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Accountability (New York: Routledge, 2016): 50–76. Describes the role and leadership of Argentina in the region. Alison Brysk, “The Politics of Mea­sure­ment: Counting the Dis­appeared in Argentina,” ­Human Rights Quarterly 16, 4 (November 1994): 676–92. Illustrates the challenges of mea­sur­ing h ­ uman rights abuses. John Dinges, The Condor Years: How Pinochet and His Allies Brought Terrorism to Three Continents (New York: New Press, 2004). Detailed journalistic account of Operation Condor. Marguerite Feitlowitz, A Lexicon of Terror: Argentina and the Legacies of Torture (London: Oxford University Press, 1998). Fascinating, accessible account (based largely on testimonials) of the abuse of language and the distortion of real­ity by the Argentine state, showing how words and symbols can be turned into tools of repression. Peter Kornbluh, The Pinochet File: A Declassified Dossier on Atrocity and Account­ ability (Washington, D.C.: National Security Archive Book, 2003). A reproduction of previously classified U.S. government documents, detailing h ­ uman rights violations in Chile u ­ nder Pinochet. Gabriel García Márquez, Clandestine in Chile (New York: Holt, 1987). The famous writer retells the daring story of the filmmaker and his six-­person crew who shot Inside Pinochet’s Prison shortly a­ fter the 1973 coup. (See filmography section below.) Iain Guest, ­Behind the Disappearances: Argentina’s Dirty War Against H ­ uman Rights and the United Nations (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1990). Engaging and thorough account of UN ­human rights pressure against Argentina’s dirty-­war regime. Alicia Partnoy, The L ­ ittle School: Tales of Disappearance and Survival in Argen­ tina (Pittsburgh: Cleiss Press, 1998). One ­woman’s brief and moving recollections of her time in a clandestine prison—­“the l­ittle school”—in 1970s Argentina. Patricia Politzer, Fear in Chile: Lives ­Under Pinochet (1989; New York: New Press, 2001). A journalist’s interviews with both supporters and opponents of Pinochet, revealing widespread abuse and fear in Chile. Rosa Isolde Reuque Paillalef, When a Flower Is Reborn: The Life and Times of a Mapuche Feminist (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2002). Testimonial account of an indigenous activist ­woman in southern Chile. Naomi Roht-­Arriaza, The Pinochet Effect: Transnational Justice in the Age of ­Human Rights (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005). Detailed examination of the Pinochet case and its implications for transnational justice.

92 ­Human Rights Case Steve  J. Stern,  Reckoning with Pinochet: The Memory Question in Demo­ cratic Chile, 1989–2006 (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2010). This is the third book in Stern’s trilogy, The Memory Box of Pinochet’s Chile. Horacio Verbitsky, The Flight: Confessions of an Argentine Dirty Warrior (1996; New York: New Press, 2005). Written by one of Argentina’s leading journalists, the book exposes one government official’s confession and chronicles abuses during the dirty war. Filmography Feature Films Chronicle of an Escape (2006). Young men kidnapped, detained, and tortured in 1970s Argentina plan an escape. 103 minutes. The Eyes of the Birds (1982). Fictional film about a visit by an International Red Cross del­e­ga­tion to Libertad (Liberty) prison in Uruguay. 82 minutes. La historia oficial (The Official Story) (1985). An Argentine ­woman’s realization that her ­adopted ­daughter might have belonged to a desaparecido. 112 minutes. Imagining Argentina (2003). Based on a well-­regarded novel of the same title, a ­woman is dis­appeared in 1970s Argentina and her husband sets out to find her; incorporating the genre of “magical realism.” 108 minutes. Machuca (2004. Story of two schoolboys before and a­ fter the 1973 coup in Chile, against the backdrop of the country’s po­liti­cal turmoil. 121 minutes. Missing (1982). Critically acclaimed drama about a f­ ather searching for his son, who has dis­appeared in a Latin American country. 122 minutes. No (2012). Based on the slick media campaign to defeat Pinochet’s 1988 referendum. 118 minutes. La noche de los lápices (Night of the Pencils) (1986). Disappearance in 1976 of ten Argentine teen­a gers who had called for lower bus fares. 101 minutes. State of Siege (1972). Depicts the interrogation of an American who is kidnapped in Uruguay; raises issues about the role of the United States in teaching torture techniques. 120 minutes. Documentaries Batalla de Chile (The ­Battle of Chile) (1976, 1978). Award-­winning, three-­part documentary focusing on Chilean po­liti­cal life before and ­after the 1973 coup, including the role of the United States. Part I, 96 minutes; Part II, 88 minutes; Part III, 78 minutes.

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Botín de Guerra (Spoils of War) (2000). Firsthand accounts by the Grand­ mothers of the Plaza de Mayo. 112 minutes. Caravan of Death (2000). Interviews with Judge Juan Guzmán, and retracing the caravan’s route in 1974. 45 minutes. Chile, Obstinate Memory (1997). Portrays both survivors of Pinochet’s regime and a new generation of Chileans who do not recall life ­under Pinochet, addressing the themes of memory and forgetting. 58 minutes. Condor: Axis of Evil (2003). Examines Operation Condor, based on interviews with both victims and perpetrators. 90 minutes. La cueca sola (2003). Five Chilean ­women’s strug­gles against Pinochet’s dictatorship. 52 minutes. Fernando Is Back (1998). The work of Chile’s Forensic Identification Unit. 31 minutes. A Force More Power­ful: Chile—­Defeat of a Dictator (2000). Examines the forces that led to Pinochet’s removal from office. 34 minutes. For ­These Eyes (1998). A ­woman’s search for her missing grand­daughter, whose parents w ­ ere two Uruguayan activists dis­appeared during Argentina’s dirty war. 52 minutes. Habeas Corpus (2015). H ­ uman rights defenders in Vicaría de Solidaridad work to save the detained ­after Pinochet’s coup. 84 minutes. Inside Pinochet’s Prison (1974). Film crew secretly captures live footage inside Chilean prison camps ­after the 1973 military coup. 30 minutes. National Stadium (2001). Based on eyewitness testimony, details the detention of more than 12,000 p ­ eople in Chile’s National Stadium during two months in 1973. 90 minutes. Our Dis­appeared (2008). Highly regarded personal account of a disappearance in Argentina, placed in its broader context. 99 minutes. Patio 29: Historias de silencio (Stories of Silence) (1998). Chilean victims buried in unmarked graves are exhumed. 84 minutes. The Pinochet Case (2001). Excellent reconstruction of the ­legal drama and evidence against Pinochet, with the pacing of a l­egal thriller. 110 minutes. Pinochet’s ­Children (2002). Award-­winning documentary showing how three young ­people’s lives unfolded ­under Pinochet’s regime. 83 minutes. A Promise to the Dead (2007). Follows h ­ uman rights activist Ariel Dorfman’s return to Chile while Pinochet is d ­ ying. 92 minutes. Special Circumstances (2006). A former po­liti­cal prisoner returns to Chile to confront t­ hose responsible for his torture. 73 minutes. 25 Años, Madres de la Plaza de Mayo (2002) and Las Madres de la Plaza de Mayo (1985). Both trace the history of this ­women’s ­human rights organ­ ization in Argentina. 30 and 64 minutes, respectively.

94 ­Human Rights Case Useful Websites Asociación de Ex-­Detenidos-­Desaparecidos (Association of Ex-­Detainees). Firsthand testimonies by survivors of detention and disappearance in Argentina, including information about perpetrators. http://­exdeten​ idosdesaparecidos​.­org​/­. Asociación Madres de Plaza de Mayo. Website of the original Madres de Plaza de Mayo group in Argentina. www​.­madres​.­org. Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales. A key h ­ uman rights organ­ization in Argentina pushing for h ­ uman rights ­trials. www​.­cels​.­org​.­ar​/­web​/­en. Defensoría del Pueblo de la Nación Argentina. Website of Argentina’s national ­human rights institution. www​.­dpn​.­gob​.­ar. Memoria y justicia (Memory and Justice). Website dedicated to ­human rights ­trials against Pinochet in Chile. www​.­memoriayjusticia​.­cl​/­index​.­html.

4 Central Amer­i­ca and Mexico


f transitions to democracy in the Southern Cone ­were framed in terms of accountability and transitional justice, it was partly b­ ecause of the military’s defeat or weakening. In Central Amer­i­ca and Mexico, in contrast, the state’s coercive apparatus combined with non-­state vio­lence and the marginalization of indigenous populations to produce a weaker brand of democracy and entrenched h ­ uman rights vio­lence. Thus, the recent narrative of h ­ uman rights in Central Amer­i­ca and Mexico is tied intimately to militarization, first within the context of the Cold War and then in the “war on drugs.” ­These dynamics help to explain differences across countries in the area. For example, Central Amer­i­ca is home to the country with the best h ­ uman rights rec­ord in Latin Amer­i­ca: Costa Rica. In part thanks to its decision to abolish its military in 1946, Costa Rica has enjoyed stable democracy and high levels of prosperity and development. We find a very dif­fer­ent picture in the Northern Triangle countries of Central Amer­i­ca (Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador) and in neighboring Nicaragua, which have all experienced much greater vio­lence and instability. In the 1980s, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua w ­ ere engulfed in civil wars. Hundreds of thousands of lives ­were lost and severe poverty became more entrenched. Mexico, however, experienced relatively low levels of po­liti­cal vio­lence and a stable, though nondemo­cratic one-­party system through the end of the ­century. All countries in the region ultimately transitioned to peace and democracy, albeit in deeply flawed ways. Yet recent years have seen a new wave of vio­lence and h ­ uman rights abuse

96 ­Human Rights Case within the context of a war on drugs that has pitted power­f ul criminal organ­izations against the state. Not surprisingly, given its proximity, the United States has played a disproportionately large role in the region. In the 1980s, the Reagan administration saw Central Amer­i­ca as a key testing ground for Cold War foreign policy, which went through two impor­tant phases. The first phase was dominated by the Kirkpatrick Doctrine, named a­ fter Jeane Kirkpatrick, the first female U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. The Kirkpatrick Doctrine maintained that right-­wing authoritarian regimes (as opposed to Soviet-­bloc totalitarian regimes) should be tolerated, if not supported, by the United States; within the context of the Cold War, authoritarian regimes w ­ ere deemed an effective balance against leftist insurgents. The second phase occurred in the mid-1980s, when U.S. foreign policy shifted ­toward promoting democracy abroad, especially in Latin Amer­i­ca. Both the Kirkpatrick Doctrine and democracy promotion w ­ ere strategies for countering Soviet influence within the context of the Cold War. Contradictions in U.S. policy w ­ ere nonetheless significant. U.S. diplomats and the military would often send one set of messages, while Congress would send another. For example, while Congress imposed h ­ uman rights sanctions against Guatemala and El Salvador, the Reagan administration and the U.S. military aided and abetted ­these same states. The intensity with which the United States applied h ­ uman rights pressures against a country depended on the Cold War camp to which the country belonged. Nicaragua, where leftist San­di­nis­tas took power in 1979, loomed as the largest threat for the United States. Sanctions lasted ­until 1990, when the San­di­nis­tas ­were narrowly ousted from power in a ­free election and Violeta Chamorro became the region’s first female president. In contrast, El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala ­were anti-­communist military regimes supported by the United States b­ ecause they could block the spread of communism; this served to limit the effectiveness of ­human rights pressures on ­these countries. ­There, U.S. military assistance to anti-­communist governments amplified h ­ uman rights abuses, while keeping leftist movements from gaining power. Although Honduras did not suffer the bloodshed of its neighbors, the United States considered it on the front lines of the ­battle to save the Amer­i­cas from communism. The United States thus used the country as a staging ground to attack Nicaragua. Some of the contras, the anti-­Sandinista groups supported by the United

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States, ­were armed and trained in Honduras before being sent across the border to wage war in Nicaragua. Despite the egregiousness of some of the ­human rights violations the country endured, the scale of abuse in Honduras was relatively low. The country was not on the world’s radar compared to its neighbors, so it escaped much transnational pressure. While ­human rights groups certainly existed in all ­these countries, they had a difficult time mobilizing and forging transnational alliances ­under conditions of war. The relative weakness of h ­ uman rights groups was further compounded by the poverty and weak economic development that characterized ­t hese countries. The United Nations played a greater role ­here, supporting some advances, most notably a peace pro­cess initiated by Central American leaders in the 1980s, followed by democ­ratization and some mea­sures of transitional justice in the 1990s. UP CLOSE: EL SALVADOR’S LONG ROAD El Salvador’s civil war (1979–92) has its roots in the extreme economic in­equality that characterizes the region. “Fourteen Families” formed an economic elite that controlled land, wealth, and po­liti­cal power. A peasant revolt against the Fourteen Families in the 1930s led to massacres and a period of intense instability. By the 1970s and 1980s, the United States was supporting the country’s repressive governments, arming the military, and actively reinforcing counterinsurgency attacks against leftist rebels (especially the FMLN—­Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front). In practice, anyone associated with the Left became a target. Archbishop Oscar Romero used the pulpit and a popu­lar radio program to become “the voice of the voiceless,” directly calling upon soldiers to disobey o­ rders to carry out h ­ uman rights violations and writing to U.S. president Jimmy Car­ter to beg him to cut off aid to the regime. On 24 March 1980, Romero delivered Mass in a small chapel. As he stepped away from the podium, an assassin shot him. His funeral was attended by a quarter of a million mourners, one of the largest gatherings in Latin American history. He was l­ater canonized a saint by the Catholic Church. While investigations by the United Nations and ­others identified the person who had given the order to kill Romero, he was never brought to justice.

98 ­Human Rights Case All told, at least 75,000 ­people died in El Salvador’s war. One of the most notorious crimes of the war was the massacre in El Mozote. Exhumations carried out by the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team in the 1990s and many investigations in the years since revealed that more than 900 villa­gers ­were killed, the majority of them ­children; and before being executed, many of the ­women ­were raped. The massacre was perpetrated by the Atlacatl Battalion of the Salvadoran Army, a force trained in counterinsurgency by U.S. military advisers. Peace came to El Salvador partly through UN involvement, beginning in 1991 with the arrival of the UN Observer Mission in El Salvador (ONUSAL) and a peace accord signed in 1992. The United Nations remained in the country for a few years, overseeing the transition, demilitarizing parties, and playing a direct role in many aspects of governance. The United Nations also implemented a truth commission for El Salvador, staffed by foreign commissioners. Its 1993 final report, From Madness to Hope, found that 85 ­percent of abuses between 1980 and 1991 had been committed by government forces; and it named forty individuals responsible for ­human rights crimes. The final report met with a hostile response from the Salvadoran president and military, and five days l­ater the legislature passed a blanket amnesty preventing any ­human rights t­rials from moving forward. It was not ­until 2017 that the amnesty law was ruled unconstitutional, and a case was fi­nally opened against twenty high-­level military officers implicated in the El Mozote massacre. The legislature nonetheless continued to debate a new amnesty law, which, if approved, would end ­human rights ­trials. Source: Raymond Bonner, “El Salvador Mocks the Victims of El Mozote,” Atlantic, 23 May 2019.

In the twenty-­first ­century, Central Amer­i­ca and Mexico have been shaken by renewed vio­lence—­this time, more criminal and profit-­driven than po­liti­cal or ideological. Power­ful gangs and organized-­crime groups brutalize communities, and governments have increasingly met them with militarized mano dura (iron fist) responses. The United States has encouraged and helped fund a war on drugs in the region. Given the vio­lence and lack of socioeconomic opportunities, many Central Americans and

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Mexicans have fled northward, seeking a new home in the United States. As we w ­ ill see, that has precipitated a new wave of ­human rights abuses. We ­will consider two cases in detail: Guatemala and Mexico.

Guatemala’s Strug­gle for Peace In the twentieth ­century, Guatemala experienced ­human rights violations on a scale and to a degree more extreme than anywhere e­ lse in Latin Amer­ i­ca except Colombia. More than 200,000 Guatemalans lost their lives during a civil war that stretched from 1960 to 1996. Most of the victims of the war lived in rural areas and ­were indigenous, mainly Mayan Indians. H ­ uman rights violations w ­ ere concentrated in the countryside, where ­people’s livelihoods w ­ ere specifically targeted. Entire villages w ­ ere essentially turned into rural concentration camps, intended to set an example. A scorched-­earth policy, more akin to Cambodia’s killing fields than to the Amer­i­cas, resulted in burned tracts of land on which ­people lived and on which they relied for food and income. Civilians w ­ ere also forced into patrol systems so that at any moment the state’s arm could reach deeply into Guatemala’s highlands and terrorize the population. Guatemala’s travails did not begin, of course, in the 1960s. Colonialism had divided the population into Ladinos (non-­indigenous ­people, generally of mixed indigenous and Eu­ro­pean descent, elsewhere in Latin Amer­i­ca called mestizos) and indigenous, with the latter forced to provide uncompensated ­labor during harvests. This began to change between 1944 and 1954 ­under Presidents Juan José Arevalo and Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán. Th ­ ese demo­cratic Socialists brought sweeping changes, including enfranchising ­women and indigenous peasants, building the first meaningful social ser­ vices in the country, and ending forced ­labor. Árbenz implemented an agrarian reform law that redistributed land and power to newly formed peasant committees, where many Ma­ya found ave­nues for recognized po­liti­cal and local engagement for the first time since the arrival of the Spanish. The backlash from Guatemala’s landed elites and factions of the military came to a head in a coup in 1954. The coup was backed by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and encouraged by American business interests in Guatemala, especially the United Fruit Com­pany, which controlled the banana industry. Military dictators then oversaw a right-­wing regime of repression and corruption for several de­cades.

100 ­Human Rights Case Diverse social movements or­ga­nized in response. During this period, liberation theology reshaped Catholic philosophy, prioritizing the needs of the poor and elevating thousands of community members through their role as catechists. The Catholic Church and community became a locus of organ­izing in f­ avor of cooperatives and social programs, making it suspect in the eyes of the state. At the same time, some Guatemalans ­were drawn to one of several Marxist armed guerrilla groups that emerged to oppose the regime, eventually joining together as the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity (URNG). O ­ thers joined popu­lar organ­izations such as the Committee of Campesino Unity (CUC) or l­ abor ­unions. In the eyes of the government, all ­were ­either Marxist guerrillas or covert supporters, and therefore worthy targets of repression. The United States continued to provide weapons and funds to the government to fight what they now saw as a full-­fledged communist insurgency, though in fact the rebel groups remained small and grossly outmatched. ­A fter fighting the state in the 1970s, a lull in hostilities allowed armed rebel groups to flee from the urban center to Mayan communities in the western highlands. The state responded with widespread repression. This intensified further in the 1980s, when absolute military rule was implemented. ­Under the brief leadership of General Efraín Ríos Montt, repression spiked in 1982, resulting in 18,000 deaths in that year alone. Ríos Montt sought to “drain the w ­ ater from the fish”—­that is, to eliminate the rebels’ natu­ral base of support: the indigenous population. The traumatic period of 1978–84 is known simply as La Violencia. During this time, 83 ­percent of ­those killed w ­ ere indigenous. Among ­those killed ­were the parents and ­brothers of Rigoberta Menchú Tum, a K’iche’ ­woman from the northern highlands. She too was targeted by the state for her po­liti­cal activism, so she fled to Mexico. In exile, she became a tireless advocate for indigenous Guatemalans. She brought international attention to their plight with her 1983 book I, Rigoberta Menchú, and through the 1986 documentary When the Mountains T ­ remble, which she narrated. Though she had ­little formal education and had suffered ­great trauma, she became a power­ful and eloquent spokesperson for ­human rights in Guatemala. In 1992, Menchú won the Nobel Peace Prize—­ the first indigenous person to do so; 1992 also marked the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Western Hemi­sphere and, as indigenous activists increasingly noted, “500 years of re­sis­tance.”

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FIGURE 8. Rigoberta Menchú marches in protest in Guatemala in 1992. She received the Nobel Peace Prize five days ­later. Rolando Gonzalez/Getty Images.

Guatemala’s egregious violations led to its international isolation. While the U.S. Congress imposed sanctions, the Reagan administration privately gave its Guatemalan allies a green light for repression. ­These contradictory pressures help to explain why Guatemala’s repression peaked in 1982 at precisely the same time that U.S. military and economic aid was relatively low. It would be another de­cade before Guatemala returned to democracy. Two years a­ fter a UN peacekeeping force arrived and the United Nations helped broker a peace deal to end the decades-­old civil war, a peace agreement was concluded in 1996. The United Nations created the Commission for Historical Clarification (Comisión para el Esclarecimiento Histórico, CEH). The CEH found that 93 ­percent of the vio­lence during the war was committed by government forces, while it attributed 3 ­percent to the rebels. It also found that the government of Guatemala had committed “acts of genocide” against certain Mayan groups, including more than 600 massacres of civilians in mainly indigenous towns and villages between 1981 and 1983. Many rural communities ­were physically destroyed, their villages burned to the ground. ­Those who fled the vio­lence sometimes spent years as internally displaced ­people, while ­others fled to Mexico as refugees. ­Those who

102 ­Human Rights Case remained ­were often forced into government-­controlled “model villages” where humiliation, abuse, and sexual assault against indigenous residents ­were commonplace.1 When, in 1999, the CEH released its final report (Memory of Silence) and its finding of “acts of genocide,” hopes ­were raised that ­human rights ­trials would follow. The commission also recommended that the Guatemalan government pay for extensive exhumations of unmarked and mass graves as a means to gather evidence of crimes and to restore remains to surviving ­family members and communities. The report also called for reparations, public memorialization, and reforms to the judiciary and military. The CEH attributed responsibility for ­human rights violations to institutions, like the military, police, rebels, and civil patrols, but it was not empowered to name individuals responsible for ­these crimes. A parallel truth commission, sponsored by the Catholic Church rather than by the Guatemalan state, worked on attributing individual responsibility. The leader of this Recovery of Historical Memory Proj­ect, Bishop Juan José Gerardi, was beaten to death two days a­ fter the release of the final report in 1998. In 2001, three members of the military ­were convicted of his murder. For the most part, however, Guatemalan courts have failed to hold ­human rights ­trials. Victims have instead sought redress through the Inter-­ American Court of H ­ uman Rights. In 2004, for example, the Inter-­ American Court found the Guatemalan government responsible for the 1982 Plan de Sánchez massacre, in which 250 ­people (nearly all ­women and ­children from the Achi Ma­ya community) ­were killed. The government did comply with demands to pay individual reparations to the victims named in the case and, for the first time, acknowledged responsibility for the massacre. The Inter-­American Court also mandated a ceremony in Plan de Sánchez, when Guatemala’s vice president admitted the government’s involvement in genocidal acts and apologized on behalf of the state. Guatemala’s highest profile l­egal b­ attle would play out in the strug­gle to hold accountable Efraín Ríos Montt, military dictator from 1982 to 1983 and member of Congress from 2007 to 2012. Finding it impossible to prosecute Ríos Montt in Guatemalan courts, a group led by Rigoberta Menchú brought charges against him and four ­others in Spain’s court system ­under the logic of universal jurisdiction (the princi­ple that crimes against humanity can be prosecuted by any national court system regardless of where the crime occurs). Back in Guatemala, Ríos Montt’s term in Congress ended,

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stripping him of his immunity from prosecution. Within weeks, he was on trial. In May 2013, he was convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity and sentenced to eighty years in prison. The courtroom erupted in cheers from h ­ uman rights defenders. But ten days l­ater, the Constitutional Court overturned the conviction. A closed-­door retrial began in 2016, and ended two years ­later with Ríos Montt’s death from a heart attack at the age of ninety-­one. Despite ­these setbacks, hundreds of court-­ordered exhumations have taken place across Guatemala, recovering thousands of remains. Forensic anthropologists like the members of the Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Team routinely face death threats, a testament to the crucial evidence they are finding. Some reparations have been paid. Though activists and victims called for holistic reparations, including m ­ ental health assistance, memorials, community development, exhumations, and ­trials, what has in fact been offered is lump-­sum payments of approximately $3,200 per killed ­family member per household—­with a limit of two payments, no ­matter the a­ ctual number killed in that f­ amily. Smaller payments have been made to survivors of torture or rape within the context of the war. Receiving reparations has itself proven a slow, bureaucratic, and frustrating pro­ cess. While approximately 32,800 individuals have received monetary reparations, many more continue to await them de­cades a­ fter t­ hese crimes occurred. Calls for land titles, financial compensation for destroyed property, communal reparations, and opportunities for psychological and spiritual recovery have been largely ignored.2 UP CLOSE: RAPE AS A WEAPON OF WAR Sexual vio­lence was a weapon deployed systematically by the Guatemalan military against Mayan w ­ omen during the civil war. Mayan ­women and girls w ­ ere frequently abducted or coerced by military detachments and then subjected to gang rapes and sexual enslavement for periods of weeks or years. More than one hundred witnesses gave power­ful testimony to t­hese crimes during Ríos Montt’s trial, which was broadcast over tele­v i­sion and radio. Among the witnesses ­were ­women who recounted the shocking crimes the army inflicted on them. As the Commission for Historical Clarification confirmed, the army was responsible for 93.4 ­percent of reported sexual vio­lence connected to the war. Two army officers ­were

104 ­Human Rights Case thus convicted in 2016 of sexually enslaving Mayan Q’eqchi w ­ omen in the community of Sepur Zarco in 1981. They w ­ ere sentenced to a combined total of 360  years in prison and ordered to pay reparations to eleven survivors. This was the first time that war­time sexual vio­lence was prosecuted in a domestic court. As the decision was announced by presiding Judge Yassmin Barrios (who also presided over the Ríos Montt trial), the survivors—­many of them now grand­mothers, their ­faces hidden beneath colorful shawls—­raised their arms to acknowledge the long-­delayed delivery of justice. Sources: Victoria Sanford, Sofía Duyos Álvarez-­A renas, and Kathleen Dill, “Sexual Vio­lence as a Weapon During the Guatemalan Genocide,” in Victoria Sanford, Katerina Stefatos, and Cecilia  M. Salvi, eds., Gender Vio­lence in Peace and War: States of Complicity (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2016), 34–46; and Jo-­Marie Burt’s coverage of the Sepur Zarco case at the International Justice Monitor website (www​ .­ijmonitor​.­org​/­category​/­g uatemala​-­trials).

Moreover, the root ­causes of the war have not been addressed, most notably, poverty and in­equality. Guatemala remains one of the most eco­ nom­ically unequal countries in the world, with 60 ­percent of the population living in poverty.3 While the rest of Latin Amer­i­ca enjoyed a “golden de­cade” of economic development between 2000 and 2010, Guatemala saw almost no improvement in gross domestic product (GDP) per capita during this period. It suffers the highest chronic malnutrition rate in Latin Amer­i­c a outside Haiti and among the highest in the world. Indigenous Guatemalans, who make up more than half the population, are disproportionately poor; and they ­were no better off in 2010 than in 2000. In fact, during that de­cade, moderate poverty (living on less than $4 per day) increased among indigenous Guatemalans by 14  ­percent, and extreme poverty (living on less than $2.50 per day) r­ ose by nearly 21  ­percent.4 Indigenous residents of both rural and urban areas are more likely to face malnutrition, less likely to complete primary or secondary education, and more likely to work in the informal sector of the economy. In­equality intersects with gender to compound systemic vio­lence. Indigenous girls have an average of 2.6 years of formal education, according

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to Guatemala’s National Institute of Statistics.5 Indigenous ­women face dire economic challenges, often heading ­house­holds without a male partner and confronting the twin realities of ethnic and gender discrimination. They are more likely than indigenous men to lack education, to be monolingual, and to live in poverty. Unequal access to land remains a key source of poverty. The displacement caused by the war reinforced the concentration of land in the hands of a small minority, and the Peace Accords did nothing to address this issue. Indigenous communities have fought many l­egal b­ attles to regain control of ancestral lands or lands lost during the war, or at least to gain new tracts of land, but ­little pro­gress has been made. They also frequently mobilize in opposition to large-­scale extractive industrial proj­ects, such as gold mining, that threaten their lands and community well-­being. (See Chapter 7 for the broader context of indigenous rights.) The combination of poverty and a dysfunctional state has allowed criminality to flourish. Across Central Amer­i­ca and Mexico, power­ful transnational criminal organ­izations have gained power, wealth, and personnel. Drug cartels and organized-­crime groups collaborate with corrupt state agents, from local police to members of Congress. At the local level, citizen security is undermined by gangs, like MS-13 (Mara Salvatrucha) and 18th Street (Calle 18). They originated in Los Angeles, California, where some Salvadoran immigrants who had fled the civil war in the 1980s or­ga­nized to protect themselves from other gangs in the city. Once the civil war ended, many gang members ­were deported back to El Salvador. MS-13 and Calle 18 increased in strength and numbers, operating across Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. MS-13’s membership, in the tens of thousands, operates ­under a slogan: “Rape, Control, Kill.” They and other gangs are largely responsible for astounding hom­i­cide rates across the region. In 2016, the Northern Triangle of Central Amer­ i­ca was widely considered the most murderous region in the world. Over the last de­cade, Mexican drug cartels have moved many of their operations south into Central Amer­i­ca, co-­opting and further empowering local gangs, as well as exercising their own power. Gangs and drug trafficking organ­izations recruit many of their new members through force. Young Central Americans and Mexicans have fled, ­either becoming internally displaced within their home countries or heading north to seek asylum. That journey, as detailed ­later, is marked by abuse

106 ­Human Rights Case and vio­lence. The Guatemalan state’s deep failure to investigate crimes or hold perpetrators responsible—to protect against systemic physical and ­mental harm—­undermines h ­ uman rights. This pattern has also played out in Mexico. Impunity has remained a defining feature of Guatemala long ­after its transition to democracy. Abundant evidence of deep linkages between or­ ga­nized crime and politicians has come to light, which the judiciary has been too weak and vulnerable to tackle. This led to the creation in 2007 of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (known by its Spanish initials, CICIG), a UN institution designed to support the work of the Guatemalan Attorney General’s Office in prosecuting cases of corruption, crime, and h ­ uman rights abuse. Working together with pioneering attorneys general Claudia Paz y Paz and Thelma Aldana, CICIG’s investigations led to charges against more than 600 individuals; some 200 current and former government officials w ­ ere among t­ hose charged, including a president and vice president, as well as gang members. But when CICIG began to investigate President Jimmy Morales for campaign funding irregularities, he ended its work. Though the courts, the United Nations, civil society, and the international community sided with CICIG and against Morales, the president prevailed. Meanwhile, the legislature floated new amnesty proposals. It was clear that neither corruption nor impunity have been rooted out.

Global Intersections in Mexico Mexico, which towers over the countries of Central Amer­i­ca in terms of size and population, did not endure a civil war during the Cold War. Its military did not attempt to disrupt single-­party rule, and the country gradually shifted to full and competitive elections by 2000. But beneath the surface of stability, Mexico had more in common with its neighboring states than may have been apparent. We now know that between 1964 and 1982, Mexico waged its own “dirty war.” The toll amounted to 1,200 murders and disappearances, as well as thousands of cases of torture and illegal detention. Mexican repression during this period was generally well-­hidden, with one exception: the Tlatelolco massacre in October 1968, the same year that the Olympics w ­ ere held in Mexico City. Like students elsewhere, t­ hose in Mexico’s capital city had been engaging in peaceful protest. When an

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unarmed demonstration of 15,000 of them gathered in a public square in the district of Tlatelolco, the military and police moved in and began firing indiscriminately into the crowd and beating bystanders. By the end, dead bodies lay piled on the streets. Despite the draw of the Olympics, international attention to the events of Tlatelolco was minimal. More than fifty years l­ater, f­ amily members of the victims continue to seek justice but to no avail. During the period of po­liti­cal opening in the 1990s, low-­level armed conflict did erupt in the southern district of Chiapas. The Zapatistas (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional, EZLN) went public on 1 January 1994, the same day the North American ­Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) went into effect. The timing was no coincidence. Taking their name from a guerrilla leader during Mexico’s revolution in 1910 who fought for indigenous land rights, the Zapatistas called for basic reforms, separation from Mexico, and re­sis­tance to globalization. The protest emanated from one of the poorest and most remote regions in Mexico, where the benefits of f­ ree trade and globalization seemed at best questionable to many of the area’s indigenous Mayan inhabitants. For example, while most of Mexico’s hydroelectric energy comes from Chiapas, many in the region, ironically, lack access to clean drinking w ­ ater. Initially, the Zapatistas’ use of arms led to a few direct clashes with the government, but other­wise the group’s masked members deployed nonviolent means of protest, including marches and an extensive campaign on the Internet that some dubbed the first global “cyberwar.” Subcomandante Marcos was the group’s articulate spokesperson. The enigmatic, pipe-­smoking figure—­now known to be a former university professor from Mexico City—­was influenced deeply by the 1968 massacre. He was able to transform successfully the needs of Mexico’s indigenous poor ­people into a compelling global script. Individuals opposed to globalization, as well as other activists from around the world, responded to the charismatic figure, traveling in solidarity to the Mexican jungle to attend large-­scale meetings. Subcomandante Marcos, who came to call himself Delegate Zero or Subcomandante Galeano, stepped down from leadership in 2014 in f­ avor of a more decentralized structure. The Mexican state responded to the Zapatistas with vio­lence; the military moved in to suppress the group and killed hundreds of p ­ eople in the pro­cess. On some occasions, the armed forces and police stood by and did nothing while paramilitary groups carried out vicious attacks:

108 ­Human Rights Case in the Acteal massacre of December  1997, forty-­five indigenous p ­ eople (including ­women and c­ hildren) w ­ ere killed savagely while attending a pacifist meeting in a village church. Significantly, the EZLN itself chose a nonviolent strategy. By 1996, the group had signed an accord with the government. In 2001, its members marched peacefully into Mexico City, demanding that Vicente Fox’s new government adhere to the agreement that would grant them some autonomy and control over resources. The Zapatistas showed that they could adapt to changing circumstances; they moved to emphasize the relevance of their demands for all Mexicans and the importance of seeking social justice in the face of globalization. They toured the country and hosted international meetings of indigenous groups. Remarkably, a group donning ski masks and red bandannas from remote southern Mexico negotiated with the national government, ­shaped po­liti­cal discourse, and became widely known abroad. The Zapatistas and their supporters continued to be targets of government abuse, but they also worked with the government to implement antipoverty mea­sures in the region. The Chiapas case illustrates dramatically how ­human rights, globalization, and network activism intersect. Using modern technology, the Zapatistas reached out to a vast transnational audience, networking strategically to pressure the Mexican state. ­Human rights abuses in the form of physical coercion did take place, but the government also moved to address some economic and social issues and at least acknowledged the plight of indigenous p ­ eople. Local groups called international attention to a range of ­human rights violations, protesting the costs of globalization for indigenous and poor p ­ eople, which in some cases led to improving ­people’s daily lives. Even before the outbreak in Chiapas, another ­human rights flashpoint had been the disappearance of young ­women in the northern border town of Ciudad Juárez. Over time, the number of w ­ omen who had dis­appeared or been murdered t­here ­rose into the hundreds, and similar patterns became apparent in other parts of the country. Not only do the killings continue, but the official response has been dismal. Critics initially blamed the media for making a mountain out of a molehill, and they suggested that the ­women ­were involved in prostitution or or­ga­nized crime. A corrupt police force has refused to investigate the killings, and punishment has been nearly non­ex­is­tent. Failure on the part of the state has led to the

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formation of transnational linkages between members of civil society within and outside Mexico. UP CLOSE: EXPOSING FEMICIDE It began in the early 1990s in Juárez, Mexico, a border city, where hundreds of young and mostly poor ­women ­were murdered ­a fter being raped and tortured. The murders have diffused throughout Mexico and Central Amer­i­ca and are now occurring in many Latin American countries. In 2016, of the top twenty-­five countries for femicide (or feminicide), fourteen ­were Latin American. In Central Amer­i­ca and the Ca­rib­bean, ­women face higher hom­i­cide rates than men, whereas globally men make up 84 ­percent of ­t hose who die violently. In recent years, El Salvador has sometimes had the highest femicide (and hom­i­cide) rates in the world. Femicide—­fatal vio­lence specifically targeting ­women—is often intimate (carried out by partners or ­family members), but it also occurs at the hands of gangs, criminal organ­izations, and state agents. The crimes are highly po­liti­c al in the sense that they are sometimes perpetrated by state agents but also ­because public authorities throughout the region have shown ­little inclination to investigate, let alone to hold anyone accountable. On occasions when ­people have been arrested, the evidence has been flimsy or confessions have been coerced. Women throughout the region are resisting this disturbing trend ­ through protesting, demanding better policy responses, and fighting for justice. Source: Small Arms Survey, “Research Notes: Armed Vio­lence,” 2012. Available at www​.­smallarmssurvey​.­org​/­fileadmin​/­docs​/­H​-­Research​_­Notes​​ /­SAS​-­Research​-­Note​-­14​.­pdf.

Many of the w ­ omen who have been raped, tortured, and killed in Mexico and Central Amer­i­ca have been young and poor. Th ­ ese w ­ omen are especially vulnerable when it comes to criminal gangs, drug cartels, sex traffickers, and even serial killers, all of which are connected to growing vio­lence against ­women in the region. In the aftermath of vio­lence, moreover, local law enforcement officials usually do not investigate crimes adequately and

110 ­Human Rights Case the judicial system fails to punish perpetrators. The victims are perceived to be weak and insignificant, essentially invisible. Local activists (including many relatives of victims) have joined transnational networks to resist the wave of vio­lence against ­women, especially in border towns like Ciudad Juárez and Chihuahua. Assisted by the prominent NGO Washington Office on Latin Amer­i­ca, a del­e­ga­tion of Latin American ­women appeared before the Inter-­A merican Commission on ­Human Rights in Washington, D.C.—on the eve of International ­Women’s Day in 2006—to protest femicide in the region. Celebrities, including Salma Hayek, Jennifer Lopez, Peter Gabriel, and Jane Fonda, have called attention to the issue. International organ­izations, such as the IACHR and the UN Special Rapporteur on vio­lence against ­women, have visited the region to better understand femicide, as have international NGOs like Amnesty International. A key turning point was the 2009 decision by the Inter-­A merican Court of ­Human Rights in the case of Gonzalez (“Cotton Field”) v. Mexico. The co­a li­tion that brought the case forward included ­mothers of dis­appeared w ­ omen, Mexican NGOs, Amnesty International, and the Inter-­A merican Commission on H ­ uman Rights. The case dealt with three w ­ omen (two of them teen­agers) murdered in Ciudad Juárez in 2001. The landmark ruling found Mexico guilty of multiple violations of the American Convention on ­Human Rights and the Inter-­A merican Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Vio­ lence Against ­Women (known as the Convention of Belém do Pará). Not only had Mexico failed to protect t­hese w ­ omen, it had also failed to investigate the crimes fully and to fulfill their families’ right to justice. The court found evidence of a deep culture of gender-­based discrimination in Ciudad Juárez and in the local criminal justice system, and it demanded reparations and more effective policies to protect w ­ omen and fight impunity for vio­lence against them. Mexico did pass new federal and state-­level legislation criminalizing femicide and promising a variety of institutional mea­sures. A Gender Vio­ lence Alert, for example, was created to kick government into high gear when a locality is experiencing severe vio­lence against w ­ omen. Mexican NGOs focused on the issue are well-­organized, with dozens of NGOs participating in a “national citizen observatory on femicide.” Nevertheless, femicide accelerated ­after 2006, and still only 2 ­percent of cases end with a conviction. Targeted international aid from the United States, Eu­ro­pean

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Union, and United Nations has been directed to Mexico, Guatemala, and other Latin American countries grappling with femicide. The vio­lence against w ­ omen must be understood as part of a broader security crisis in Mexico. In 2006, President Felipe Calderón declared a “war on drugs,” deploying the Mexican military across the country to carry out law enforcement and directly confront power­ful or­ga­nized crime groups. The Sinaloa Cartel (led u ­ ntil the mid-2010s by the notorious “El Chapo”) is considered the most power­ful drug trafficking organ­ization in the Western Hemi­sphere, but it is only one of several groups financing themselves through trafficking in drugs, arms, and h ­ uman beings in Mexico. They make billions of dollars in annual profit from the sale of heroin, methamphetamines, and fentanyl produced in Mexico and sold in the United States, as well as cocaine produced in Colombia but transported through Central Amer­i­ca and Mexico. President Calderón found an ally in U.S. president George W. Bush, and together they launched the Mérida Initiative in 2007. Three billion dollars had been appropriated by 2019 for U.S. assistance in counter-­ narcotics and security operations, which have yielded the capture of more

FIGURE 9. A protest in Mexico in April 2018, denouncing the kidnapping, torture, and killing of three university students in Guadalajara. Ulises Ruiz/AFP via Getty Images.

112 ­Human Rights Case than twenty drug kingpins. Yet vio­lence has only escalated as decapitated cartels become more decentralized and compete for territory and trafficking routes. The results in terms of ­human rights have been devastating. Since the declaration of the war on drugs in 2006, more than 37,000 Mexicans have dis­appeared and more than 210,000 hom­i­cides have been committed. The cartels are responsible for much of this, but Mexican security forces are also implicated in h ­ uman rights crimes, including extrajudicial executions, torture, and sexual vio­lence. The close collaboration of police, politicians, military personnel, and criminal organ­izations is well-­ documented, as is impunity on all sides. UP CLOSE: MASSACRES IN MEXICO In 2014, forty-­t hree male students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers College w ­ ere dis­appeared. A hasty government investigation found the young men had been removed by police from the bus carry­ing them to a commemoration of the 1968 Tlatelolco massacre, handed over to a local crime syndicate, and executed in a garbage dump, though only one set of remains was identified. The families, Mexico’s National H ­ uman Rights Commission, and an international panel of experts from the Inter-­A merican Commission on H ­ uman Rights and the United Nations disputed the government investigation, which had ignored evidence of torture, among other irregularities. In late 2018, newly inaugurated president Andrés Manuel López Obrador promised a truth commission specifically for this case. “The 43” have become a symbol of the current Mexican ­human rights crisis and its key characteristics: collaboration between state agents and or­ga­nized crime and impunity. More than a dozen other massacres occurred at the hands of criminal organ­izations in Mexico between 2010 and 2015. In the Mexican state of Tamaulipas in 2010, 72 Central American mi­grants ­were abducted from buses, held hostage on a ranch, subjected to extreme abuses, and then executed, their bodies left in mass graves. The following year, another massacre in Tamaulipas took 193 lives (this time, mostly of Mexican residents). The biggest mass murder so far has been in the state of Durango, where the remains of 340 ­people have been found in a series of mass graves. Th ­ ese massacres have been attributed

C e n t r a l A m e r ­i ­c a a n d M e x ic o 113 to groups like the Sinaloa Cartel and Los Zetas, but they all required the complicity of police and other state agents. Source: Inter-­ American Commission on ­ Human Rights, Situation of ­Human Rights in Mexico, 31 December 2015, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.Doc.44/15.

­Human Rights Within the Context of Migration Migration from Latin Amer­i­ca to the United States has been g­ oing on for as long as the United States has existed. In fact, Mexican Americans often make the point that, in the 1840s, “We ­didn’t cross the border; the border crossed us,” referring to U.S. annexation and conquest of more than a third of Mexican territory—­what became the states of New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, Utah, Texas, and California. Between 1965 and 2015, some sixteen million Mexicans migrated to the United States; and ­today, approximately eleven million Mexicans live in the United States, half of them undocumented. However, over the past de­cade, Mexican migration to the United States has fallen. In fact, in the twenty-­first ­century, more Mexicans have returned to Mexico than have entered the United States. The United States also dramatically accelerated deportations of undocumented immigrants, including Mexicans, during this period, particularly during the Obama and Trump administrations. President Donald Trump made hostility to Mexican immigrants a cornerstone of his campaign for the presidency, overlooking the systemic ­drivers of migration. During the speech launching his campaign, for example, he said, “When Mexico sends its ­people, they are not sending their best. . . . ​They are sending p ­ eople with lots of prob­lems. . . . ​ ­They’re bringing drugs. ­They’re bringing crime. ­They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good p ­ eople.”6 The real­ity is that rising vio­lence and per­sis­tent poverty in much of Mexico and Central Amer­i­ca have led millions of ­people, mostly families and unaccompanied youth, to travel through Mexico to attempt entry into the United States. In 2018, for the first time, more p ­ eople from the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras ­were apprehended at the border than Mexicans. Remember that the total population of the Northern Triangle is less than 33 million, compared to Mexico’s 129 million; and the distance that has to be traversed from Mexico’s southern border to its northern border is more than 1,100 miles.

114 ­Human Rights Case For mi­grants crossing Mexico, dangers abound. Many pay smugglers to help them on their journey, taking on debt to do so, while o­ thers attempt it in the com­pany of a few friends or ­family members or in a larger “caravan.” However they begin their journey, they face daily risk and even death. Many mi­grants r­ ide on top of trains, risking falling off and being crushed on the tracks or robbed and beaten by petty criminals. Obtaining food and medicine is a daily strug­gle. Charitable organ­izations and everyday citizens do what they can to help, from providing shelter to throwing bags of food to mi­grants on passing trains, but their capacity is far outstripped by the need. The dangers have multiplied within the context of Mexico’s war on drugs. Drug trafficking organ­izations have expanded into other trafficking enterprises, such as trafficking in ­humans, sex, and guns. Organ­izations like Los Zetas (originally commandos in the Mexican army who formed a power­ful crime syndicate) and several drug trafficking cartels routinely kidnap mi­grants and subject them to torture, sexual vio­lence, extortion, and murder, making Mexico the most dangerous country in the world for mi­ grants. Many Mexicans have faced the same fate as t­ hese mi­grants. Though the vio­lence largely occurs at the hands of criminals, corrupt police and immigration agents often hand victims to the crime syndicates and turn a blind eye to their activities or refuse to investigate. Sometimes they receive cash payments or even beer in exchange for their cooperation, as mi­grants and other h ­ uman beings are deemed to be disposable commodities.7 Mi­grants who make it to the border face a choice: ­either enter the United States illegally and become undocumented immigrants or apply for asylum. In both cases, they are likely to be deported. Asylum is an internationally recognized right, but the United States uses a strict set of criteria to determine who qualifies for asylum. According to the 1951 Refugee Convention, which is the main international law governing refugees: “The term ‘refugee’ s­ hall apply to any person who . . . ​owing to a well-­founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a par­tic­u­lar social group or po­liti­cal opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.” For mi­grants fleeing threats from gangs or drug traffickers, it is usually not their race, religion, nationality, or membership in a par­tic­u­lar social group that leads them to be targeted, but simply their presence in an area u ­ nder the control of criminals. Asylum applicants also have to prove that they cannot turn to

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their own country’s government or police for assistance. In practice, most ­people fleeing vio­lence in Mexico and Central Amer­i­ca fall outside this narrow ­legal definition. Other countries accept a broader set of criteria for qualifying as a refugee. In 1984, a group of ten Latin American countries (including Mexico and Guatemala) agreed to the Cartagena Declaration on Refugees, which expanded the criteria to include “persons who have fled their country b­ ecause their lives, security or freedom have been threatened by generalized vio­lence, foreign aggression, internal conflicts, massive violation of ­human rights or other circumstances which have seriously disturbed public order.” Though nonbinding, the Cartagena Declaration has been influential in changing many Latin American countries’ domestic laws and policies regarding refugees. It is the accepted standard across the region t­ oday. While, in recent years, Mexico has extended asylum to more Central American mi­grants, the greater trend has been blocking and deporting Central Americans from Mexico. The United States has used both carrots (e.g., funding) and sticks (e.g., refusing to sign trade agreements) to pressure Mexico and then Guatemala into ramping up immigration control. President Trump’s efforts to build a border fence along the U.S.-­Mexico border are well known, and his administration pushed Mexico into a more aggressive and militarized response to migration, including against asylum seekers and ­others fleeing vio­lence. The “zero tolerance” immigration policies of the Trump administration meant that asylum seekers often faced delays, misinformation, and detention. In 2018, the United States went to new extremes to deter immigrants from accessing their right to apply for asylum by implementing a family-­separation policy. Adults who had crossed the border without documentation ­were held in jails, while their ­children ­were taken from them and put in the custody of the Department of Health and ­Human Ser­vices. Heartbreaking audio of ­children—­some of them mere toddlers—­ begging for their parents; reports of abuse of the c­ hildren’s rights while in detention; and the absence of any plan for reuniting the ­children with their parents (many of whom had been deported) provoked public outrage, leading to numerous protests and lawsuits by seventeen U.S. states and the American Civil Liberties Union. Among the groups that expressed outrage ­were religious communities, the American Acad­emy of Pediatrics (which pointed to the severe harm separation posed to the ­children’s development),

116 ­Human Rights Case the United Nations, NGOs, charitable organ­izations, and some members of Congress. Though the Trump administration quickly brought an official end to ­family separation, l­ ater investigations revealed that the practice had started as early as 2017 and, in some cases, continued even a­ fter the policy ended. All told, thousands of Latin American c­ hildren and their families ­were forcibly separated on U.S. soil. With the inauguration of President Joe Biden in 2021, the United States began investigating and repairing the damage of the family-­separation policies. The rhe­toric also changed, as the new U.S. administration acknowledged corruption, vio­lence, and lack of opportunity as the d ­ rivers of migration from Mexico and Central Amer­i­ca. But the message Vice President Kamala Harris delivered on a trip to Guatemala still boiled down to this: “Do not come.”

Conclusion ­ uman rights have traditionally been framed as rights held by citizens and H demanded of governments. Often, international law places limits on the ability of states to infringe upon individuals’ physical integrity, with the implicit assumption that the state represents both the biggest threat to ­people’s rights and the only actor capable of truly protecting ­those rights. Cases like Mexico and Central Amer­i­ca, where non-­state actors may pose as ­great a threat to ­human rights as state actors, complicate our traditional thinking about ­human rights. International agreements are geared t­ oward dealing with h ­ uman rights and state violations, while domestic criminal law has sought to control abuses by non-­state actors. But is torture, rape, or murder fundamentally dif­fer­ent if it is carried out by a drug trafficker rather than a soldier? Is a mass grave not evidence of large-­scale ­human rights abuses, even if it was a cartel that executed the ­humans in it? In truth, states always had a duty to not only re­spect (i.e., not violate) h ­ uman rights but also to protect t­ hose rights and take positive action to enable citizens to meaningfully fulfill t­ hose rights. But it is only recently that the core ­human rights strug­gle in Mexico and Central Amer­i­ca has been to get the state to protect citizens from non-­state threats. ­Human rights activists need a new arsenal of tactics to face ­these challenges. NGOs are often a­ dept at “naming and shaming” t­ hose responsible for h ­ uman rights abuses, but MS-13, Los Zetas, and o­ thers like them cannot be shamed. Reports blaming Mexico or Guatemala or Honduras for

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corruption, failure to investigate, and complicity in abuses often ignore the real­ity that national governments are disconnected from developments on the ground in a local police department or municipality. Hence the pattern of governments rhetorically committing to international ­human rights law while rampant abuses abound at the local level grows more apparent by the day. It reveals, among other ­things, that democ­ratization includes the hard work of building robust institutions at the local level. Mexico and Central Amer­i­c a offer a stark contrast to the Southern Cone cases explored in the previous chapter. Th ­ ere, the end of authoritarianism has led to strong democracies that have extended a variety of meaningful rights to citizens and pathbreaking transitional justice. H ­ ere, transitions to democracy have not led to the same improvements in citizens’ lives. Mexico and Central Amer­i­ca seem to support a vein of scholarship summarized as “more murder in the m ­ iddle”; mixed regimes—­partly demo­cratic, partly incoherent regimes—­are more likely to experience physical integrity violations than e­ ither authoritarian regimes or fully consolidated democracies. But some ­don’t even belong “in the ­middle.” While Nicaragua escaped much of the vio­lence of the drug war, democracy has dramatically failed ­there. Daniel Ortega, a former rebel who combated the Somoza dictatorship in the 1980s, was elected president in 2006. He gradually consolidated power by undermining freedom of the press, eliminating term limits, and undermining checks and balances by giving his party and f­ amily control over nearly all parts of the state. When hundreds of thousands of Nicaraguans took to the streets to protest his regime in 2018, police killed more than 300 and injured and detained thousands more. The UN and OAS have issued rebukes, but to no effect. Ortega won an unfair fourth election in 2021, having jailed many of his opponents. ­Human rights trajectories can be marked by ongoing militarization within contexts of deep in­equality, as we have seen in this chapter. In ­these countries, large segments of the population live in poverty, while a select few rely on a weak and corrupt state to benefit immeasurably from the illegal trade in goods and h ­ uman beings across national borders. When indigeneity is thrown into the mix, so that the poorest and most historically marginalized are viewed as less fully ­human than ­t hose of Eu­ro­ pean descent, the stage is set for targeted abuse and vio­lence with ­little accountability. From massacres and genocide to femicide and disappearances, Central Amer­i­ca and Mexico have been caught in a spiral of poverty and ­human rights vio­lence, even while ­great strides have been made

118 ­Human Rights Case to bring peace and calls for justice have become pronounced. Governments in the region have responded to contradictory international pressures by mastering the art of embracing ­human rights rhe­toric and institutions, but they have not always initiated real reforms. The ongoing challenge ­will be to embed ­human rights standards locally, including in the agencies of the state. Only then w ­ ill the state be able to protect p ­ eople, systematically and meaningfully, from all forms of harm. Discussion Questions 1. Is the Ríos Montt case, on balance, cause for hope or disappointment? Why? 2. How should countries balance the rights and needs of asylum seekers fleeing countries like Guatemala with perceived national interests? How do we reconcile managing the complexities of migration with a commitment to ­human rights? 3. Is ­there a role for h ­ uman rights activists to play in combating the vio­lence and criminality that comes with drug trafficking and gangs? Explain. 4. From a ­human rights perspective, why ­hasn’t democracy brought better times to Mexico and Guatemala, compared to Argentina and Chile? 5. How can the scourge of femicide and vio­lence against ­women be meaningfully addressed? 6. Research ­human rights conditions in other countries of Central Amer­i­ca. How can we explain the diversity of outcomes within this region?

Resources Additional Reading Alejandro Anaya-­Muñoz and Barbara Frey, eds., Mexico’s H ­ uman Rights Cri­ sis (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019). Excellent chapters explore the crisis that has unfolded since the 2010 war on drugs began. John Booth, Christine Wade, and Thomas Walker, eds., Understanding Cen­ tral Amer­i­ca: Global Forces, Rebellion, and Change, 6th ed. (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 2014). Primer on the politics and history of the region. Mark Danner, The Massacre at El Mozote (New York: Vintage, 1994). Award-­ winning journalist’s analy­sis of why this village massacre occurred in El Salvador and the role of the United States. Stella Pope Duarte, If I Die in Juárez (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2008). Follows a street child, an indigenous girl, and a maquiladora worker who become victims of femicide.

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Matt Eisenbrandt, Assassination of a Saint: The Plot to Murder Óscar Romero and the Quest to Bring His Killers to Justice (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2017). An international team of ­lawyers and ­human rights defenders searching for truth and accountability. Deborah Levenson, Adiós Niño: The Gangs of Guatemala City and the Politics of Death (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2013). A history of the maras that show how war, urban decay, and social bonds led to the current real­ity. Valeria Luiselli, Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions (Minneapolis: Coffee House Press, 2017). Short, accessible, power­ful book about the plight of Central American ­children who seek asylum in the United States. Beatriz Manz, Paradise in Ashes: A Guatemalan Journey of Courage, Terror, and Hope (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005). Cultural anthropologist’s engaging account of the extermination and rebuilding of one village in the Guatemalan highlands. Subcomandante Marcos, Our Word Is Our Weapon (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2002). Collection of the Zapatista leader’s writings on behalf of Mexico’s indigenous p ­ eoples. Óscar Martínez, The Beast: Riding the Rails and Dodging Narcos on the Mi­ grant Trail (London: Verso, 2014). A Salvadoran journalist’s account of the harrowing journey of undocumented mi­grants to the United States. Carlota McAllister and Diane Nelson, eds., War by Other Means: Aftermath in Post-­Genocide Guatemala (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2013). Essays by leading scholars on Guatemala’s strug­gles past and pre­sent. Rigoberta Menchú, I, Rigoberta Menchú: An Indian ­Woman in Guatemala (London: Verso, 1987). Internationally acclaimed, though controversial, oral testimony given by this Mayan ­woman who won the 1992 Nobel Peace Prize. Sonia Nazario, Enrique’s Journey (New York: Random House, 2007). Based on the author’s Pulitzer Prize–­winning journalistic work about a Honduran boy’s journey to find his ­mother in the United States. Teresa Rodriguez, Diana Montané, and Lisa Pulitzer, The D ­ aughters of Juárez: A True Story of Serial Murder South of the Border (New York: Atria Books, 2007). Gripping investigative account of the femicide in Juárez. John Ross, Zapatistas! Making Another World Pos­si­ble, Chronicles of Re­sis­tance 2000–2006 (New York: Nation, 2006). Overview of the Zapatistas’ unique influence. Jennifer Schirmer, The Guatemalan Military Proj­ect: A Vio­lence Called Democ­ racy (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1998). An unusual opportunity to hear the views of military officials responsible for h ­ uman rights abuses, drawing on extensive interviews.

120 ­Human Rights Case Kathleen Staudt and Zulma Y. Méndez, Courage, Re­sis­tance and ­Women in Ciudad Juárez: Resisting Militarization (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2015). Examines activists’ strategies and networking across borders and issues. Maria Teresa Tula, Hear My Testimony: Maria Teresa Tula, ­Human Rights Ac­ tivist of El Salvador (Boston: South End Press, 1994). The story of one ­woman’s transformation from a peasant to an international ­human rights activist. Kristen Weld,  Paper Cadavers: The Archives of Dictatorship in Guatemala (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2014). How activists used the discovery of the National Police archives to piece together the truth about Guatemala’s past. Daniel Wilkinson, Silence on the Mountain: Stories of Terror, Betrayal, and For­ getting in Guatemala (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2002). Engaging account of Guatemala’s civil war, told through travel narrative and personal interviews. Filmography Feature Films Bordertown (2007) and Virgin of Juarez (2006). Two popu­lar feature films on the femicide in Ciudad Juárez. 112 and 90 minutes, respectively. Innocent Voices (2004). The war in El Salvador seen through the eyes of an eleven-­year-­old boy who must decide w ­ hether to enlist in the army or join the guerrillas. 120 minutes. El Norte (The North, 1983). Two Mayan siblings, whose parents are dis­ appeared in Guatemala, set out on a perilous journey to Los Angeles. 139 minutes. Nuestras Madres (Our ­Mothers, 2019). In the midst of ­human rights t­ rials in Guatemala, a forensic anthropologist searches for answers about his f­ ather’s disappearance. 78 minutes. Rojo Amanecer (Red Dawn, 1989). One Mexican f­amily’s experience during the government’s brutal suppression of the 1968 student uprising. 96 minutes. Romero (1989). Chronicle of the life, including po­liti­cal activism and assassination, of Archbishop Oscar Romero in El Salvador. 105 minutes. Salvador (1986). Directed by Oliver Stone, depicting El Salvador in the 1980s. 122 minutes. El Silencio de Neto (The Silence of Neto, 1994). Life in 1950s Guatemala, through a boy’s coming-­of-­age story and against the backdrop of Cold War politics. 106 minutes.

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El Violín (The Violin, 2005). The strug­gle between the Mexican government and indigenous p ­ eople in Chiapas, featuring a f­amily of traveling musicians who smuggle weapons to the rebels. 98 minutes. Documentaries Alonso’s Dream (2000). Impact of paramilitary and Zapatista vio­lence on the daily lives of Mayan peasants. 71 minutes. Amer­i­cas in Transition (1982). Fast-­paced account of politics in Chile, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua in the 1970s and early 1980s, including the role of the United States. 29 minutes. Bajo Juárez: The City Devouring Its ­Daughters (2007), On the Edge (2006), Señorita Extraviada (Missing Young ­Woman) (2001). Three critically acclaimed films documenting the disappearance of ­women from Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, including the role of the government and globalization. 96, 58, and 74 minutes, respectively. El Buen Cristiano (The Good Christian, 2016). Follows Guatemalan dictator Ríos Montt and Francisco Chavez Raymundo, who was orphaned by the vio­lence Ríos Montt unleashed, as they grapple with transitional justice. Burden of Peace (2015). Follows Guatemala’s Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz in her courageous fight against corruption and impunity. 77 minutes. Chiapas: Landscape A ­ fter ­Battle (1999). Examines the conflict between the indigenous population of Chiapas and the Mexican government. 60 minutes. Denial (1993). Uncovering the truth about the El Mozote massacre in El Salvador, despite government denials of responsibility and knowledge. 57 minutes. Enemies of War (1999). The murders of six Jesuit priests in El Salvador, their ­house­keeper, and her d ­ aughter in 1989; the role of a U.S. congressional investigation. PBS special. 60 minutes. The 43 (2019). A two-­part Netflix documentary about the horrific crime and the series of investigations and alleged cover-­ups that followed. 132 minutes. If the Mango Tree Could Speak (1993). Ten c­ hildren’s perceptions of the wars in Guatemala and El Salvador. 58 minutes. ­Killer’s Paradise (2006). Portrays the brutal killings of ­women in Guatemala and ongoing prob­lems of impunity, as the government fails to seek justice. 59 minutes. Mayan Re­nais­sance (2012). Covers the history of Mayan civilization through current activism. 120 minutes. The Metal Stork (2012). Survivors of the Salvadoran civil war try to reconnect with their families and reconcile with the past. 81 minutes.

122 ­Human Rights Case Los Ofendidos (The Offended, 2016). Award-­winning consideration of the legacies of El Salvador’s civil war and h ­ uman rights abuses. 83 minutes. Presumed Guilty (2008). Follows a wrongly convicted man’s journey through the deeply flawed Mexican criminal justice system. 87 minutes. When the Mountains ­Tremble (1983), Granito: How to Nail a Dictator (2011), and 500 Years (2017). A trilogy from Skylight Pictures, tracking indigenous and other h ­ uman rights in Guatemala from the 1980s to t­ oday. Useful Websites Centro de Derechos Humanos Fray Bartolomé de las Casas. Since 1989, this NGO named ­after the sixteenth-­century friar and pioneering ­human rights thinker has done crucial work in Chiapas, Mexico. https://­frayba​.­org​.­mx. Centro para la Acción L ­ egal en Derechos Humanos (Center for L ­ egal Action on ­Human Rights). Tracks l­egal efforts to provide justice for and improve the lives of Guatemalans. https://­caldh​.­org​.­gt. Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos. Mexico’s national ­human rights institution. http://­cmdpdh​.­org. Nuestras Hijas de Regreso a Casa (Our ­Daughters Return Home). The leading organ­ization formed by relatives of young w ­ omen killed in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. http://­nuestrashijasderegresoacasa​.­blogspot​.­com. Procurador de Derechos Humanos. Guatemala’s national h ­ uman rights institution. www​.­pdh​.­org​.­gt.

5 The Andean Region


he Andes Mountains stretch from Venezuela, across Colombia, and south through Ec­ua­dor, Peru, and Bolivia. This vast area is rich in natu­ral resources and indigenous culture, both of which are deeply embedded in t­ hese countries’ h ­ uman rights trajectories. Colombia suffered the deadliest and longest armed conflict in the Amer­i­cas, but a 2016 peace deal offers hope for the first time in more than half a c­ entury. Meanwhile, Venezuela, historically stable and without widespread physical integrity rights violations, has collapsed. Peru and Bolivia both have large indigenous populations struggling for economic opportunity; but, while Peruvians succumbed to civil war, indigenous Bolivians w ­ ere able to mobilize to gain greater po­liti­cal power at the ballot box. Despite their geographic proximity and shared strug­gles with democracy, t­hese countries have experienced dif­fer­ent historical and institutional dynamics, variously shaping ­human rights strug­gles and their impact. In all t­ hese cases, natu­ral resources are a significant driver of politics. Bolivia, Peru, and Colombia are the sources of the world’s supply of coca, a leaf that has been grown throughout the Andes for thousands of years that can be chewed for mild stimulant effect and to suppress hunger, fatigue, and altitude sickness. It can also be pro­cessed into the power­f ul narcotic cocaine and sold for billions of dollars a year to (primarily) U.S. consumers. H ­ uman rights conditions in Bolivia, Peru, and Colombia cannot therefore be separated from the war on drugs. In Venezuela, a dif­ fer­ent resource has proven contentious: oil. Throughout the subregion, ­human rights change is inextricably linked to strug­gles over resources and

124 ­Human Rights Case identity. Given the wide variety of resources and identities at stake, we cover more cases and strug­gles in this chapter to shed light on the contentious politics of ­human rights transformation.

Hope and Upheaval in Colombia Colombia was long viewed as Latin Amer­i­ca’s greatest humanitarian disaster. Beginning in the late 1940s, widespread vio­lence erupted in the country, pitting conservatives against liberals. The result was a period in Colombia’s history known as La Violencia; approximately 250,000 ­people died in po­liti­cal vio­lence between 1949 and 1962. The 1960s saw social upheaval and polarization, including the formation of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, FARC). The FARC and the Colombian government spent the next half ­century at war. More than 261,000 lives would be lost, and millions would be displaced.1 The size of the FARC’s fighting force has ranged from a few thousand to twenty thousand. Most fighters ­were recruited voluntarily from among rural populations facing few employment prospects. Joining the FARC meant regular food, pay, and a weapon; and many w ­ ere attracted to the

FIGURE 10. FARC guerrillas march in 2001. Luis Acosta/Getty Images.

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rhe­toric about economic justice. Once in the FARC, though, no one was ­free to leave, and t­ hose who tried w ­ ere killed. As the FARC came to rely increasingly on kidnapping, extortion, and drug trafficking to finance itself, its claims to idealism lost credibility. UP CLOSE: W ­ OMEN AND C ­ HILDREN IN THE FARC ­ nder the Geneva Conventions and the Convention on the Rights of U the Child (CRC), recruiting ­children ­under the age of fifteen into an armed group is a war crime. Colombia signed an Optional Protocol to the CRC that raises the minimum age for participating in an armed group to eigh­teen. Yet recruitment of ­children was regular practice for the FARC, which used thousands of child soldiers in its war against the government. Though FARC claimed that t­hese c­hildren—­some as young as eight—­joined voluntarily, international law rejects the possibility that a minor can make such a choice freely; all recruitment of minors is banned. What is more, research found that much of FARC’s recruitment of c­ hildren was by force. ­Children ­were trained to participate in combat and endure grueling conditions in the field, and some ­were forced to prove their loyalty by executing fellow child soldiers who attempted to defect. ­Today, some former child soldiers are undergoing rehabilitation and reintegration. They are often deeply scarred, accustomed to vio­lence, and disconnected from their families and communities. More than a third of FARC soldiers w ­ ere female. Many young ­women ­were attracted to the FARC’s promises of egalitarian treatment and saw it as an escape from poverty and vio­lence in their ­house­holds. Some ­rose to leadership positions within the guerrilla forces, and the image of the female militant with lipstick and a beret became iconic. But the FARC prohibited pregnancy within its ranks and forced girls as young as twelve to take contraception. Pregnancies often resulted in abortion, including many forced abortions. Even female promiscuity could be punished, sometimes with execution. Young girls in par­tic­u­ lar w ­ ere vulnerable to abuse and control by older commanders. Female FARC soldiers and commanders certainly are implicated in many of FARC’s most horrific crimes, but some also claim to have been victims of the FARC and hope to take their claims to the Inter-­A merican Court of H ­ uman Rights.

126 ­Human Rights Case Sources: ­Human Rights Watch, “ ‘You’ll Learn Not to Cry’: Child Combatants in Colombia,” 2003, and Maureen Orth, “She Was Colombia’s Most Feared Female Revolutionary: Can She Help It Find Peace?” Vanity Fair, September 2018.

Meanwhile, power­ful drug lords ­were gaining prominence. By the 1980s, Medellin and Cali became infamous around the world for their drug trafficking organ­izations, led by ruthless kingpins like Pablo Escobar. ­These organ­izations entered into sporadic conflict with insurgents and supported death squads to combat them. In the late 1990s, several of ­these paramilitary forces joined in creating the United Self-­Defense Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia, AUC), which committed massive abuses. They claimed to be fighting the FARC but w ­ ere also clearly pushing communities off their land to enrich themselves and expand their role in drug trafficking. The paramilitaries enjoyed the covert support of the Colombian military, who likely saw the paramilitaries as unrestrained by h ­ uman rights obligations and more willing to engage in extreme vio­lence against the FARC. Collusion between the military and paramilitaries (though denied by military leaders and the government) was readily apparent: Military units would withdraw from a community immediately before paramilitaries would arrive to torture and murder residents. H ­ uman rights defenders who pointed this out ­were gunned down one by one. It took extraordinary bravery to do such work, but t­ hose who denounced the paramilitaries and their links to the state ultimately revealed that the collusion went beyond the military. In fact, a­ fter 2006, hundreds of politicians would be investigated by the Supreme Court, and more than fifty convicted, for crimes against humanity through collaboration with the paramilitaries in what became known as the “parapolitics” scandal. The Colombian military also committed ­human rights abuses. For example, in an effort to appear successful in their fight against guerrillas, military commanders a­ dopted the practice of luring young men to the countryside with promises of well-­paid jobs, then murdering them and presenting their bodies (dressed up in fatigues) as ­those of rebels killed in military operations. Known as the “false positives,” thousands of young men w ­ ere killed in this way. According to H ­ uman Rights Watch, “ ‘False

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positives’ w ­ ere not just a prob­lem of a few bad apples. Th ­ ese apparently widespread and systematic extrajudicial killings w ­ ere committed by troops attached to virtually all brigades in e­ very single army division across Colombia.”2 More than 1,600 false-­positive cases have resulted in convictions of low-­and mid-­ranking soldiers; while convictions against military commanders have not kept pace, at least nineteen army generals have remained ­under investigation.3 Throughout the conflict, the United States provided funding to the Colombian military. Initially, the United States saw Colombia as another front in the Cold War, particularly given the FARC’s Marxist ideology. But since the 1980s, Colombia has been at the heart of the U.S. war on drugs. The United States has assisted the government’s aggressive attempts to eradicate the drug trade, looking the other way when it comes to ­human rights abuses. Particularly controversial was the failure of the Clinton and Bush administrations to comply with the Leahy law, a law sponsored by Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont and passed in 1997 that forbids the United States from offering military assistance to foreign armed forces that violate ­human rights. In the name of the drug war, U.S. administrations have used a series of loopholes to circumvent having to comply fully with the law in Colombia. Peasants who depend on coca for their livelihood have been caught in the crossfire of drug traffickers, guerrilla insurgents, paramilitary groups, and state efforts to fight the U.S.-­financed war on drugs. A U.S. aid program known as Plan Colombia provided billions of dollars to support the eradication of coca crops and fight the FARC between 1999 and 2015. Aerial fumigation led to displacement of peasant farmers with few alternatives to earn a livelihood, and it had environmental and health consequences. ­Human rights advocates saw Plan Colombia as deeply destructive, given that much of the money ended up in the hands of abusive military and paramilitary groups. The U.S. and Colombian governments, however, saw it as successful in weakening the FARC and driving it back to the peace negotiations. So many attempts at negotiating peace deals w ­ ere made in Colombia that it has become a major focus of scholars and prac­ti­tion­ers of conflict resolution and transitional justice. From 2003 to 2006, for example, the AUC paramilitaries w ­ ere demobilized u ­ nder a peace deal negotiated by President Alvaro Uribe. More than 30,000 paramilitaries laid down their

128 ­Human Rights Case weapons in exchange for promises that only the worst ­human rights abusers among them would be prosecuted. But b­ ecause the government had ­little information linking specific paramilitaries with crimes, ­those who demobilized had no incentive to confess to their role in atrocities. ­Human rights advocates saw the deal as an amnesty for most paramilitaries, and they pointed out that many of them ­were joining new armed groups (“paramilitary successor groups”) and continued to be active in the drug trade and ­human rights abuses. When the extensive links between members of Congress (particularly within Uribe’s party and ­family) and the AUC ­were uncovered, it strengthened the suspicion that the deal simply extended impunity to paramilitaries. At last, in 2016, the FARC signed a peace deal with the Colombian government a­ fter years of negotiations hosted by Cuba. While it represented difficult compromises, it was seen by many as a breakthrough—­the first real chance of peace in Colombia in more than sixty years—­and President Juan Manuel Santos was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for his role in the pro­cess. The deal had several key ele­ments. First was a promise by the government to spend billions of pesos to improve the lives of rural Colombians, whom the FARC claimed to champion, through expanded access to education; clean ­water; socioeconomic development; and government ser­ vices, such as police departments. Since many rely on coca cultivation for survival, t­here ­were promises to replace coca with alternative crops. The FARC agreed to peaceful demobilization and disarmament in exchange for being allowed to compete in elections and fill ten guaranteed seats in Congress. The deal also established Special Jurisdictions for Peace, transitional justice tribunals to hear thousands of FARC and military personnel confess their role in criminal acts. ­These tribunals can assign responsibility but not jail time, with the exception of ­those charged with perpetrating large-­scale crimes against humanity and war crimes. Many ­were torn over this last point: Was this too ­little justice in exchange for the possibility of peace? In a referendum, the public rejected the deal, but President Santos soon pushed a revised version through Congress. Thousands of FARC soldiers demobilized and handed their weapons over to the United Nations, but it was unclear ­whether the peace deal would hold together for the fifteen years required for implementation. The arduous pro­cess of resettling the displaced and recovering from the trauma of war is only just beginning. Colombia has more internally displaced ­people—­more than 8 million—­than any other

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country in the world.4 A new surge of vio­lence in 2020 confirmed the fear that peace remains elusive.

Truth on Trial in Peru Peru too has been plagued by armed conflict and h ­ uman rights vio­lence. In 1980, Peru returned to the demo­cratic fold ­a fter twelve years of military rule. At the same time, the Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso), a brutal Maoist, communist insurgency, launched a civil war and campaign of terror. Its strongholds w ­ ere in the highland regions largely populated by impoverished indigenous peasants, but they ultimately operated in e­ very district of the country and engaged in car bombings and other attacks in the capital, Lima. The Shining Path is widely known to have funded itself through extortion and alliances with drug traffickers. (Peru, Bolivia, and Colombia compete for the top spot in coca production, while Colombia is the main location for the conversion of coca into cocaine.) They killed indiscriminately, including peasants and other civilians. Their extremism, which rejected participation in the po­liti­cal system, also led Senderistas to oppose ­human rights, which they considered a bourgeois and imperialist concept. By 1982, the Peruvian military had been dispatched across the countryside. Peruvian h ­ uman rights groups or­ga­nized themselves and collected evidence of shocking brutality on the part of the armed forces, but they faced severe obstacles to operating in war zones. Most districts of the country ­were placed u ­ nder a state of emergency, which gave the armed forces direct control over local government and shielded them from the scrutiny of the press in their counterinsurgency operations. The armed forces and rebels alike engaged in massacres of civilians, including the 1983 massacre of sixty-­nine peasants by the Shining Path in Lucanamarca and a comparable 1985 massacre by the armed forces in Accomarca. More than 69,000 p ­ eople died over the course of two de­cades as a result of the conflict; and many more ­were displaced, falsely imprisoned, coerced into cooperating with one side or another, or tortured. The armed forces supplied local self-­defense groups with arms and treated them as allies in the strug­gle against the Shining Path, putting more rural, indigenous ­people on the front lines.5 In 1990, President Alberto Fujimori escalated the counterinsurgency effort and called on Congress to approve draconian anti-­terrorist legislation to

130 ­Human Rights Case make prosecuting suspected terrorists faster and easier, granting new powers to the armed forces and intelligence agencies, and weakening civil liberties protections. Facing some re­sis­tance, Fujimori—­with the backing of the armed forces—­launched a “self-­coup” in 1992, summarily dismissing Congress, the courts, and most other po­liti­cal functionaries he could not directly control. This allowed Fujimori to rule by decree for nine months and preside over the writing of a new constitution. Part of Fujimori’s war on terrorism involved establishing military tribunals in which suspected terrorists would be tried by anonymous, hooded judges. This would putatively protect the identity of the judges, who might other­wise be targeted for intimidation or assassination by the Shining Path. Between 95 and 97 ­percent of the cases tried by the new military tribunals resulted in conviction, so nearly all of the thousands of suspects rounded up by police and military landed in prison, regardless of ­whether proof of their participation in terrorist activity existed. One such suspect was college student María Magdalena Montesa. As she l­ ater told the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, “In October 1992, when I was 19 years old, I was kidnapped at the entrance to La Cantuta University. . . . ​W hen I was completely naked, they gave me an injection in the left arm. I felt dizzy but despite that, I could feel the terrible pain. They did the same ­thing the next day. I would have rather died than that. They w ­ eren’t h ­ uman beings.” Montesa had been abducted by Army Special Forces personnel. She was repeatedly interrogated, drugged, and raped, resulting in pregnancy. She was l­ater falsely convicted of terrorism, only to be released and pardoned ­after six years in prison.6 Despite the weakening of the Shining Path, government forces continued to engage in ­human rights abuses throughout the 1990s. Death squads, comprised of paramilitary forces drawn from army intelligence, carried out disappearances and murders, such as the 1991 Barrios Altos and 1992 La Cantuta massacres. Around the same time, the Shining Path began falling apart a­ fter its leader, Abimael Guzmán, was captured by police in Lima in 1992. Most of its leaders ­were subsequently detained and held in dismal conditions—­including 14,000 feet high in the Andes Mountains at below-­zero temperatures—­ironically, in violation of basic h ­ uman rights. Though remnants of the Shining Path continued operating in Peru and staging occasional small-­scale attacks, the so-­called war on terrorism had been largely concluded by the early 2000s.

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Fujimori blocked investigations into alleged h ­ uman rights violations by the state. When members of Congress attempted to investigate the La Cantuta University cases, President Fujimori sided with the army, whose commander sent tanks through the streets to force the Congress to back down. A 1995 amnesty law overturned h ­ uman rights convictions for military officers and placed a blanket immunity over all military and police officials for any crimes allegedly committed a­ fter 1980. When the validity of this amnesty was challenged before the Inter-­ A merican Court of ­Human Rights, Fujimori threatened to remove Peru from the court’s membership and jurisdiction. UP CLOSE: THE BARRIOS ALTOS AND LA CANTUTA MASSACRES On 3 November  1991, at 10:30 p.m., a group of ­people w ­ ere having dinner in Barrios Altos, a neighborhood in Lima, Peru. Six masked men, driving cars with police sirens, burst into the party and fired machine guns (with silencers) indiscriminately into the crowd. Fifteen ­people died and four ­were seriously injured. A subsequent investigation revealed that the killers ­were members of a death squad; a leaked government document countered that the victims ­were subversives belonging to the Shining Path. Vari­ous attempts to investigate and prosecute ­those responsible for the massacre in Barrios Altos proceeded unsuccessfully. Then, in 1995, a general amnesty law exonerated all members of the military and security forces from being charged with h ­ uman rights violations. ­Later that year, Peru’s Supreme Court confirmed the importance of the amnesty law by shutting down the case permanently. In 1996, the case was taken to the Inter-­A merican Commission on ­Human Rights (IACHR) by a ­human rights organ­ization representing the relatives of victims. The IACHR referred the case to the Inter-­ American Court of ­Human Rights, which ruled in 2001 that amnesty laws are illegal and contravene basic international h ­ uman rights obligations. The court ruling had a r­ipple effect throughout the h ­ uman rights world, marking the first time that an international court ruled explic­itly against the use of national amnesties. Eight months a­ fter the Barrios Altos massacre, vio­lence struck again in Peru. Members of the Colina Group—­a death squad—­conducted a

132 ­Human Rights Case raid on La Cantuta University, considered a hotbed of radicalism and support for the Shining Path. On 18 July 1992, nine students and one professor ­were kidnapped and dis­appeared, never to be seen again. The case also found its way to the IACHR, ­a fter a nongovernmental organ­ ization submitted a petition in 1993. In 1999, the IACHR de­cided the case was admissible, but it was not u ­ ntil 2005 that the commission found that the Peruvian government had v­ iolated basic h ­ uman rights. In 2006, it referred the case to the Inter-­A merican Court of ­Human Rights. In its final judgment of November 2006, the court concurred with the commission and awarded more than $1.8 million in compensation to more than forty ­people related to the victims of the massacre. Sources: Inter-­A merican Court of ­Human Rights, Barrios Altos Case, Judgment of 14 March 2001, www​.­worldlii​.­org​/­int​/­cases​/­I ACHR​/­2001​ /­5​.­html; Inter-­A merican Court of H ­ uman Rights; Case of La Cantuta v. Peru, Judgment of 29 November  2006, www​.­corteidh​.­or​.­cr​/­docs​/­casos​ /­a rticulos​/­seriec​_­162​_­ing​.­doc.

­A fter winning an unconstitutional third term as president in the fraudulent elections of 2000, Fujimori fled to Japan when leaks to the press revealed massive corruption in his administration. Stunningly, he faxed a letter of resignation to the Peruvian Congress. The sudden regime collapse created a win­dow of opportunity for advocates of transitional justice to translate much of their agenda into national policy. Over the next few years, Fujimori’s anti-­terrorism legislation was revoked, Peru reengaged with the Inter-­A merican Court of ­Human Rights, and a Truth and Reconciliation Commission was formed. The Supreme Court revoked the 1995 amnesty laws, and investigations against members of the armed forces and government implicated in corruption and ­human rights abuses began. The Peruvian ­human rights community or­ga­nized into a co­a li­tion ­under an umbrella nongovernmental organ­ization called the National Coordinator for ­Human Rights (Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos). It was able to influence questions of transitional justice in part ­because of a major surge in the legitimacy and re­spect t­ hese groups enjoyed in 2001, when many of the complaints they had made about Fujimori’s authoritarianism over the previous de­cade ­were proven true. In the 1990s, ­there had been l­ittle consensus about the need for transitional justice in

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Peru. B ­ ecause many members of the Shining Path had been captured, prosecuted, and imprisoned, much of the public felt it was best to leave the past ­behind. The armed forces had, in the eyes of many, protected the country from savage terrorists and should not be scrutinized for potential abuses. When h ­ uman rights organ­izations called for investigation of military abuses or of show ­trials against suspected terrorists, the armed forces and ­others accused them of sympathizing with the terrorists. However, bald evidence that high-­ranking military officers had participated in narcotics trafficking, illegal arms sales, and self-­enrichment eventually persuaded the public that full investigation of the armed forces was warranted. This clear support for corruption investigations in turn strengthened the case for ­human rights investigations. Individuals from nearly e­ very key governmental or social institution—­including the press, courts, Congress, and intelligence agencies—­were unmasked as corrupt cronies and henchmen of Fujimori. Videos and testimony detailing the extent to which ­these institutions had been subverted by the administration enthralled for years the public, who craved truth and accountability. The Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission found that the majority of killing, ­human rights abuses, and crimes investigated between 1980 and 2000 had been carried out by the Shining Path. Another 44.5 ­percent ­were attributed to agents of the state. Most victims ­were poor, Quechua-­speaking, indigenous residents of rural regions of the country. The truth commission advanced numerous recommendations, and some changes w ­ ere made even if they w ­ ere weakly implemented. Peru reduced the size of its armed forces and removed from its ranks hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals implicated in h ­ uman rights abuses. Members of the armed forces are now exposed to h ­ uman rights training, and they have not engaged in any pattern of gross violations since 2001. Police forces have been largely demilitarized, just as the courts have taken mea­sures to restrict military powers during states of emergency and to limit military court jurisdiction. The court system itself, however, remains badly in need of reform. One key recommendation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was to implement a comprehensive reparations program to benefit victims. A registry of victims listed more than 180,000 individuals, most of whom w ­ ere entitled to reparations. The reparations are usually single payments of $3,300, though even that paltry sum must often be split among ­family members. In general, the implementation of reparations has been slow, disor­ga­nized, and unsatisfactory in the eyes of the victims.

134 ­Human Rights Case The question of justice in the courts has been even more problematic. Members of the Shining Path w ­ ere most responsible for deaths and h ­ uman rights violations, but most of its leaders w ­ ere already in prison. The controversial question was w ­ hether convictions handed down by Fujimori’s specially created military tribunals w ­ ere legitimate. In January  2003, Peru’s courts overturned the conviction of Abimael Guzmán and ruled the bulk of the Fujimori-­era anti-­terrorism legislation unconstitutional. This decision concurred with a 2001 Inter-­A merican Court of ­Human Rights decision, and it entitled ­those convicted ­under the legislation to retrials in civilian courts. Despite intense public disapproval and fear that thousands of terrorists would now be released from prison, the courts ultimately retried hundreds of cases. Hundreds of innocent prisoners ­were released. The new t­ rials, though not popu­lar, established the extent to which the Peruvian state was willing to go to restore its demo­cratic credentials and affirm the importance of due pro­cess. All major figures in the Shining Path w ­ ere ultimately reconvicted by civilian courts. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission also called for prosecution of state officials and members of the armed forces implicated in ­human rights abuses, forwarding forty-­four cases to the Public Prosecutor’s Office for investigation. Hundreds of criminal indictments have been issued in the years since, but only a handful of cases have resulted in convictions. More bodies ­were exhumed and evidence uncovered, yet ­little justice has been delivered. One trial stood out as exceptional. ­A fter fleeing to Japan, Fujimori occasionally boasted that he would return to seek reelection in Peru, where he retained some degree of popularity. Yet it came as a surprise when he attempted to make good on this promise by flying in 2005 to Chile, from which he hoped to launch his candidacy for the 2006 presidential election in Peru. He was instead promptly taken into custody by Chilean authorities and then extradited to Peru in 2007. He was put on trial for three cases, the most notorious being the Barrios Altos and Cantuta University killings carried out by a death squad acting ­under his o­ rders. In April 2009, a three-­judge panel of the Supreme Court convicted Fujimori of murder, aggravated kidnapping, battery, and crimes against humanity. He was sentenced to twenty-­five years in prison. Yet the story does not end ­there. In another blow to justice, in December 2017, President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski granted Fujimori a humanitarian ­pardon, releasing him from prison. Though Kuczynski claimed his decision

T h e A n de a n R e g ion 135 ­Table 3. A Shameful Presidential Rec­ord in Peru President

Years in Office


Francisco Morales Bermudez 1975–80 (military dictator)

In 2017, sentenced in absentia to life in prison by an Italian court for Operation Condor crimes.

Fernando Belaunde Terry

1963–68, 1980–85

Died 2002.

Alberto Fujimori

1990–2000 Convicted of crimes against humanity; currently serving a 25-­year sentence. ­Under investigation for corruption and forced sterilizations.

Valentín Paniagua

2000–2001 Served honorably as interim president. Did not run for election. Died 2006.

Alejandro Toledo


Arrested by the United States in 2019 on the basis of an extradition request from Peru for corruption charges.

Alan García

1985–90, 2006–11

About to be arrested for corruption, he killed himself in 2019.

Ollanta Humala


Arrested in 2017; awaiting corruption trial in 2021. Also ­under investigation for ­human rights abuses when in the military in the 1990s.

Pedro Pablo Kuczynski


Forced to resign amid corruption allegations. ­Under h ­ ouse arrest 2019–21.

Martín Vizcarra


Impeached and forced out of office for alleged “moral incompetence.”

was based purely on Fujimori’s poor health and advanced age, leaked videos ­later suggested the ­pardon was part of a deal with Fujimori supporters (who controlled a majority of seats in the legislature and ­were led by Keiko Fujimori, the former president’s d ­ aughter) to avoid impeachment. The following year, a Supreme Court justice overturned the ­pardon; and, in January 2019, Fujimori returned to prison. New criminal charges w ­ ere brought

136 ­Human Rights Case against him and several of his health ministers for forcibly sterilizing ­women in the 1990s (see Chapter 8). Meanwhile, Kuczynski was forced to resign and was l­ater arrested for corruption. Remarkably, of the eight presidents who served between 1975 and 2018, only two have not been wanted for arrest. Though most ­were implicated in corruption, four of t­ hese eight ­were also ­under investigation for h ­ uman rights abuses, and two ­were convicted of ­those crimes. That individuals like Humala and García, accused of extrajudicial executions and other crimes, nevertheless won the presidency is evidence that Peru’s transitional justice pro­cess has not ended impunity. The distrust many Peruvians understandably feel t­oward Peruvian presidents may have factored into the thinking of congressional leaders in November 2020. They impeached President Martín Vizcarra for “moral incompetence,” removing him from office in a pro­cess most of the press and public rejected as illegitimate. Huge numbers of Peruvians took to the streets; police responded with force. Vizcarra’s replacement in the presidential office, Manuel Merino, resigned ­after five days, making Francisco Sagasti Peru’s third president in a week. Are arrests, impeachment, and investigations of former presidents a sign that the rule of law is becoming a real­ity, or are they just a bleak reminder of the per­sis­tence of abusive governance? The outcome of the strug­gle for accountability and democracy in Peru remains far from certain. The end of the armed conflict helped usher in economic growth, ­human development, and a steep decline in physical integrity violations, but the public remains deeply disillusioned with the state.

Indigenous Empowerment in Bolivia Bolivia is the most indigenous country in Latin Amer­i­ca, with 64 ­percent of its 16 million p ­ eople identifying as indigenous. Most are Aymara or Quechua, but dozens of smaller groups exist. Like Peru, Bolivia also has stark socioeconomic in­equality rooted in its colonial history. Recall that the territory that is t­oday Peru and Bolivia was u ­ nder the control of the massive Inca empire before the Spanish colonized. Bolivian society came to be dominated by criollos (whites) and mestizos (­those of mixed indigenous and Eu­ro­pean descent) for the next 500 years, though ­today criollos make up only 10 ­percent of the population and mestizos another 25 ­percent. The country remained one of the poorest and most socioeco­nom­ically unequal in the Amer­i­cas, with land, power, and wealth highly concentrated and

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inaccessible to the indigenous majority. The 1952 national revolution incorporated indigenous citizens by giving them the right to vote, but assimilationist policies and poverty remained the forces that ­shaped indigenous lives. Yet Bolivia provides a striking contrast to countries like Guatemala and Peru, the other countries in Latin Amer­i­ca with the highest percentages of indigenous citizens. Bolivia was spared the civil wars and po­liti­cal vio­lence that indigenous ­peoples suffered in Guatemala and Peru, and indigenous Bolivians have been the backbone of power­ful social movements that have changed the country in profound ways in recent de­cades. Th ­ ose social movements and indigenous mobilizations ­were largely confined to the highlands ­until the 1990s, at which point they coalesced into a power­ful national movement with both highland and lowland support.7 ­These changes accelerated with the emergence of a indigenous po­liti­cal party in 2002—­Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS)—­which has dominated Bolivian politics ever since. Peasant ­unions established in the 1950s provided platforms for indigenous members to criticize the state. At the same time, many indigenous intellectuals and leaders drew more attention to indigenous identity through the indigenista and katarista movements. Lowland groups or­ga­nized the Confederation of Indigenous P ­ eople of Eastern Bolivia (CIDOB) in the early 1980s, leading a massive March for Territory and Dignity in the 1990s. As they marched westward and into the highlands, they ­were met by other indigenous groups. Together, they arrived in La Paz, the administrative capital of the country, making a power­ful statement. This widely publicized march captured the public’s attention and “changed the face of Bolivia forever.”8 ­A fter negotiating with the march leaders, presidential decrees created indigenous territories, and Bolivia ratified the International ­Labor Organ­ization’s Indigenous and Tribal P ­ eoples Convention. It was the beginning of a greatly empowered, nationwide indigenous movement. CIDOB-­organized marches in subsequent years ­were successful in pressuring the state to recognize indigenous languages and pass agrarian reforms laws. In the 1990s, the agenda of the movement focused on re­sis­tance to neoliberal economic programs and on control of natu­ral resources. Even more than elsewhere in the Amer­i­cas, t­ here was a power­f ul sense of injustice around the exploitation of natu­ral resources, which created ­great wealth for foreign powers, multinational corporations, and a tiny Bolivian elite but left the indigenous majority in extreme poverty. This, too, had deep

138 ­Human Rights Case historical roots. During the colonial era, the mines of Potosí made the Viceroyalty of Peru (from which Bolivia ­later emerged) famous around the world, the source of half the silver and gold mined worldwide, and the site of the Spanish colonial mint. While this bankrolled Spanish luxury, imperialism, and profligacy, between one and four million Bolivian miners lost their lives from mining-­related injuries, illnesses, and accidents. Indigenous p ­ eoples who evaded forced ­labor fled from Spanish control and/or joined periodic rebellions that stretched into the early twentieth ­century. At the end of the twentieth ­century, the natu­ral resources that became flashpoints for conflict between indigenous groups and the state included coca, hydrocarbons, and w ­ ater. Two broader contexts s­ haped t­ hese modern-­day conflicts. First was the imposition of structural adjustment programs by governments in the 1980s and 1990s, u ­ nder the direction of the International Monetary Fund. Though inflation fell and international aid ­rose, the shock of economic austerity—­including slashing public spending and laying off tens of thousands of public sector workers—­infuriated the public and united the ­labor and indigenous movements in opposition to neoliberalism. The second was the U.S.-­led war on drugs. Coca is deeply intertwined with indigenous Andean medicinal and religious practice and the day-­to-­day life and economy of rural Bolivia, where hundreds of thousands depend on the cash crop for their subsistence. In the 1990s, the U.S. government successfully pressured the governments of Bolivia, Peru, and Colombia to eradicate coca. As in Colombia, fumigation of coca fields has had enormous rights implications, displacing poor p ­ eople from their homes, creating health and environmental ­hazards, and destroying the economic livelihood of ­people with no other source of income. Indigenous Bolivians saw this as an existential threat to their culture and economic survival and or­ga­nized massive protests in response. The cocalero (coca grower) movement expanded rapidly, its members staging roadblocks and protests frequently over the next fifteen years, confronting increasingly aggressive police and military responses. Evo Morales emerged as the charismatic leader and highly effective or­ga­nizer of the cocaleros.9 Opposition to neoliberalism and the war on drugs brought public mobilization, especially among the indigenous, to a fever pitch. In 1999, the World Bank encouraged the Bolivian government to privatize the public ­water com­pany in Cochabamba, the country’s third-­largest city. The joint venture that took over involved Bechtel, the largest construction firm in

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the United States. Alarming hikes in w ­ ater prices, purportedly to finance construction of new ­water infrastructure, drove tens of thousands of mostly indigenous ­people into the streets and into confrontations with police who fired tear gas in what is t­ oday known as the W ­ ater War of 2000.10 The privatization bid was reversed. Among the leaders of the re­sis­tance in Cochabamba ­were Evo Morales and the cocaleros. They would be front and center again in the Gas Wars of 2003 and 2005, in other major mobilizations in opposition to the export of Bolivia’s natu­ral gas deposits to the international market through a Chilean pipeline, and in major protests against other development and resource-­extraction proj­ects. Again and again, it was in the streets that the power of the indigenous majority in opposition to the elites proved itself, and the sense of a paradigm shift grew. In 2001, the po­liti­cal party MAS (Movimiento al Socialismo) was formalized, led again by Evo Morales. In 2005, he was elected president; he remained president u ­ ntil November 2019. Morales attracted worldwide attention b­ ecause of his uniqueness: He is indigenous, a leader among coca growers, and a socialist opposed to U.S. policies and global markets. Morales ran on a platform of protecting indigenous rights, opposing fumigation programs, and supporting the l­egal growing of coca. In his inaugural address, he said, “The 500 years of Indian re­sis­tance have not been in vain. From 500 years of re­sis­tance we pass to another 500 years in power. We have been condemned, humiliated . . . ​and never recognised as h ­ uman beings. We are ­here and we say that we have achieved power to end the injustice, the in­equality and oppression that we have lived ­under.”11 The Morales administration went farther than any other in Latin Amer­ i­ca to advance an indigenous rights agenda. In 2006 and 2007, a Constituent Assembly oversaw the writing of a new constitution, ­shaped by a highly participatory model of citizen input and approved by referendum in 2009. Fifty-­six p ­ ercent of the delegates in the Constituent Assembly identified as indigenous and half w ­ ere ­women. This was an extraordinary moment, as scholars Linda Farthing and Benjamin Kohl described: “For the first time, ­women in polleras, traditional broad pleated skirts, and long braids sat as equals beside white men in business suits, and an indigenous w ­ oman, Silvia Lazarte, was elected Assembly President.”12 The new constitution declared Bolivia a plurinational state, required re­distribution of land, enshrined the right to multiple ­legal systems and autonomy for multiple nations/peoples, mandated intercultural bilingual education for all, stated

FIGURE 11. A Bolivian coca farmer. Aizar Raldes/Getty Images.

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that indigenous ­peoples must be consulted about resource extraction affecting their land, protected coca as part of the national culture, and required that 25 ­percent of legislative seats be held by indigenous representatives. At the core of the constitution are the princi­ples of indigeneity and decolonization, including a commitment to overturn the racist foundations of the state and society.13 In the years since, t­ hese rights have materialized to varying degrees. Take land rights, for example. When Bolivia gained its in­de­pen­dence in 1825, the criollo elites outlawed any form of landholding other than private property, thereby negating indigenous communal property and easing the takeover of ­those lands by the elite. By Morales’s election, a small minority controlled 70 ­percent of the land. But in the de­cade between 2006 and 2016, small landholders came to own a majority of land in Bolivia; and the majority of uncertain or informal land owner­ship of the past was replaced with l­egal titles. The question of regional autonomy has been more complicated and difficult to resolve, with few territories seeking autonomy and g­ reat uncertainty about what such autonomy means in practice.14 In terms of other economic and social rights, indigenous Bolivians have benefited greatly—­from greater public spending to reductions in poverty and the wage gap between indigenous and nonindigenous in urban areas. Access to sewerage among the indigenous increased by 60 ­percent in the 2000s.15 In 2008, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency was kicked out of Bolivia, and coca growing is now protected. Other issues have proven more intractable. For example, overall educational attainment by indigenous ­children remains low. While 80 ­percent of nonindigenous Bolivians completed primary school as of 2012, only 66 ­percent of Aymara and 54 ­percent of Quechua Bolivians did. The numbers are much more stark when we account for gender: While half of Aymara men finish secondary school, only a third of Aymara ­women do. The effects of such disparities—­and of widespread discrimination—­persist throughout life. One World Bank study found that indigenous w ­ omen earn 60 ­percent less than nonindigenous ­women for similar work, a much greater difference than the overall wage gap of about 11 ­percent between all indigenous and nonindigenous citizens.16 Morales eventually faced opposition from some of the highly mobilized base that helped bring him to office, and he strug­gled to reconcile the interests of vari­ous groups. Despite his renegotiation of most international contracts for hydrocarbon extraction, for example, he did not fully nationalize

142 ­Human Rights Case that sector. And the public sometimes mobilized in opposition to proj­ects his government backed, such as the building of a road through the Isiboro-­ Secure Indigenous Territory and National Park, which proceeded without the prior consultation required by the constitution and with police vio­lence against protesters reminiscent of the 1990s. Morales’s desire to protect natu­ral resources coexisted with an interest in raising profits from resource extraction, which in theory could address poverty and underdevelopment. Indeed, indigenous communities themselves are often more divided about the benefits and threats of such proj­ects than was apparent in the 1990s.17 Supporters of indigenous rights ­were also critical of the decline in the number of indigenous ­people in the cabinet and legislature since the early years of the Morales government; it had started with a cabinet half full of indigenous leaders and by 2019 had none. Moreover, scholars and citizens alike recognize the difference between increasing repre­sen­ta­tion and successfully implementing legislation that changes the lives of the population, a population that continues to strug­gle with poverty, in­equality, and discrimination. Concerns that MAS had not been able to mature and institutionalize, that it remained entirely dependent on Morales’s leadership, and that too much power had become concentrated in the presidency dampened enthusiasm for the administration. In the end, it was Morales’s ego that brought him down. Not satisfied with fourteen years as president, he sought the public’s support in a referendum to end presidential term limits. When he lost that referendum, he took his case to the Constitutional Court, arguing that term limits ­violated his h ­ uman rights! The court, by now packed with his supporters, sided with him. But Morales’s narrow victory in the 2019 election was undermined when an electoral mission sent by the Organ­ization of American States (OAS) denounced it, decrying widespread manipulation of the voters. Protests erupted and the military called on Morales to step down. He fled to Mexico, leaving a temporary vacuum ­behind and denouncing the transition as a coup. Bolivia has changed radically since the turn of the c­ entury, though its f­ uture even now remains uncertain.

Venezuelan Contradictions Venezuela was, u ­ ntil recently, one of the wealthiest countries in Latin Amer­ i­ca. This was largely thanks to its oil reserves, the largest proven reserves in the world. But oil has been more a curse than a blessing to Venezuela.

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During the 1970s, the state nationalized the oil sector, facilitating embezzlement of oil profits but also buying cooperation among po­liti­cal parties. When the oil boom inevitably went bust in the 1980s, the government imposed austerity. Within the context of widespread riots in 1992, a young military officer named Hugo Chávez was arrested for conspiring to launch an attempted coup. It was a dramatic start to a dramatic po­liti­cal c­ areer. Chávez was elected president in 1998 and remained in office u ­ ntil his death from cancer in 2013. He radically transformed Venezuelan politics, overseeing a new constitution and renaming the country the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in honor of his hero, Simón Bolivar. A self-­proclaimed socialist, Chávez initially made strides to improve economic and social rights for the country’s poor, including nearly eliminating illiteracy and providing housing and health care to many for the first time. This fed a cult of personality around Chávez, who governed in a highly personalistic and populist manner. He thrilled the working poor with diatribes against the wealthy (who he labeled “vampires” and “squealing pigs”) and against U.S. president George W. Bush (“the devil”), and he used endless tele­vi­sion and radio broadcasts to connect with citizens. In 2002, a coup attempt led to his kidnapping while factions of the media and business elite celebrated. The coup was quickly reversed, and Chávez sought revenge by swiftly dismantling freedom of the press, including closing media outlets, and criminalizing any speech deemed offensive to the government. He concentrated power in the executive branch, abolishing presidential term limits, packing the judiciary with supporters, and driving critics into exile. Soon no demo­cratic checks on his power functioned. Nongovernmental organ­izations, which sometimes accepted support from U.S.-­based philanthropic organ­izations, w ­ ere depicted as enemies of the state, liable to prosecution for treason. Po­liti­cal scientists debated how best to characterize the regime: Was it authoritarian or more a hybrid regime, combining ele­ments of democracy and authoritarianism? The economy began to unravel. Oil production fell, while inflation ­rose. Price controls, intended to slow inflation and enable the poor to buy staples, forced many businesses to fail. Food and medicine dis­appeared from grocery store shelves, and both shortages and lengthy waits to buy what remained available became routine. Still, the public remained loyal to Chávez, electing him to a fourth term in 2012 despite his strug­gle with cancer. Chávez handpicked his successor, Nicolas Maduro, but Maduro lacked Chávez’s charisma and popu­lar support. And timing was not on his side;

144 ­Human Rights Case oil prices plummeted from more than $100 a barrel in 2014 to less than $30 a barrel in 2016. Oil income accounts for nearly all of Venezuela’s foreign earnings, so public financing dis­appeared right alongside oil profits. Massive protests ­were met with brutality, ranging from the widespread use of tear gas to beating and killing unarmed protesters. Media censorship became total, social media sites ­were policed, and online journalists w ­ ere detained. By 2018, Venezuela ranked alongside Rus­sia in terms of the absence of Internet freedom.18 In 2017, Venezuela’s legislature was disbanded and all public protest prohibited, though it continued to intensify. Maduro’s claim to reelection in 2018 was rejected by most of the world. No longer described as a “hybrid regime,” Venezuela was recognized as a fully authoritarian state that made a mockery of h ­ uman rights. Hundreds of po­liti­cal prisoners ­were detained and subjected to torture, including waterboarding, electric shocks, and sexual vio­lence. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for H ­ uman Rights, Venezuelan Special Forces extrajudicially executed more than 7,000 p ­ eople between 2018 and 2019, then doctored evidence to make it appear they had been killed while resisting arrest.19 The OAS and h ­ uman rights NGOs around the world called for Venezuelan officials responsible for the carnage to be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity. But hunger and lack of medicine ­were still the bigger threats for most citizens. Malnutrition affected more than 11 ­percent of the population by 2017 and has only worsened since. Lack of medicines resulted in surges in communicable diseases such as diphtheria, measles, tuberculosis, and malaria, and even routine health prob­lems like diabetes went untreated. Huge quantities of international aid w ­ ere sent to Venezuela, only to sit at the border, with Maduro refusing to allow the life-­saving food and medicine to reach his ­people. By some estimates, the GDP of Venezuela has contracted by half since 2013. Though falling oil prices triggered the crisis, it is the government’s own policies that have strangled the economy; it is widely considered the worst-­managed economy in the world. More than four million Venezuelans, or over 12 ­percent of the population, fled the country between 2014 and 2019. Many left on foot, suffering from poor health and malnutrition and without proper ­legal documentation. Colombia, still struggling to accommodate its own millions of displaced citizens, was unprepared to deal with more than a million Venezuelans streaming across the 1,300-­mile border it shares with Venezuela. But Latin

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American countries and global and local NGOs agreed to cooperate with one another u ­ nder a plan developed by the UN Refugee Agency and the International Organ­ization for Migration to share the burden of dealing with this migration crisis, one of the largest in Latin American history. More than a million Venezuelans w ­ ere granted temporary work visas outside Venezuela in 2018, and the United States and Peru accepted tens of thousands of Venezuelan asylum seekers. Appeals to the princi­ples of the 1984 Cartagena Declaration on Refugees and the nearly universal condemnation of the Maduro administration contributed to the humaneness of the response. However, the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic (to which we w ­ ill return in Chapter  8) posed dramatic new threats to mi­ grants and upended much of the response planning. It remained unclear how the international community could help bring an end to the Venezuelan crisis. The Vatican oversaw negotiations for a peaceful settlement, but Maduro seemed unwilling to step down. President Trump considered military options while imposing severe sanctions on Venezuelan oil exports, despite appeals from h ­uman rights organ­ izations that argued sanctions w ­ ere in­effec­tive and worsened the impact of the humanitarian crisis on the ground. Juan Guaidó, the leader of the opposition-­controlled National Assembly, was sworn in as acting president in January 2019. While countries across the region and world recognized him as the legitimate president, the Venezuelan military and a smaller number of countries continued to back Maduro, leaving the country in a dangerous stalemate and presidential crisis.

Conclusion What conclusions can we reach from ­these cases? So much suffering is encompassed in ­these histories, and threats to ­human rights in the region are as relevant ­today as they ­were in the last ­century. Peru has overcome armed conflict, and Colombia has its best chance at peace in sixty years. Bolivians have won both repre­sen­ta­tion and real change in the po­liti­cal rights of indigenous citizens, but they still face enormous challenges of poverty and socioeconomic in­equality. Venezuela’s implosion is a power­ful reminder of the capacity of the state to threaten its citizens not only through state vio­lence but also through gross mismanagement. ­These cases remind us how fragile democracy remains in Latin Amer­ i­ca. Presidents across the region enjoy powers that fragmented po­liti­cal

146 ­Human Rights Case parties and weak legislatures strug­gle to check. Politicians implicated in corruption and in supporting paramilitaries have disillusioned the public. And no country in the region has the answer to how best to manage resources—­whether ­water, oil, or coca. The major determinants of h ­ uman rights vio­lence are pre­sent to some degree in all of t­hese cases, including poverty, in­equality, and exclusionary ideologies. In addition, ­these cases are complicated by the role of global markets, implicating local communities, multinational corporations, and governments. W ­ hether dependent on the extraction of natu­ral resources or benefiting from the illegal drug trade, some groups have entrenched interests that override the need to protect h ­ uman rights. H ­ uman rights change can occur only at the nexus of ­these power­ful and contradictory forces. Local transformations w ­ ill continue to take place, but more levers than traditional h ­ uman rights pressures w ­ ill be required if t­ hese countries are to see more far-­reaching and enduring change. Discussion Questions 1. Why are indigenous populations often at odds with domestic security forces and global trade markets? What surprised you most about ­these dynamics? 2. Presidential politics have featured dramatically in ­these countries’ recent pasts, with impor­tant implications for ­human rights. Why? 3. How likely is national reconciliation in the aftermath of extreme vio­lence? Imagine yourself in the position of survivors of abuse. What does that look like on the ground on a daily basis? 4. How would one go about creating a culture of accountability to replace one of impunity? 5. All t­ hings considered, what are the major considerations that should guide U.S. policy in the Andean region?

Resources Additional Reading Héctor Abad, Oblivion: A Memoir (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2013). A moving tribute to the author’s ­father, who led public health and ­human rights proj­ects in Colombia before he was assassinated by paramilitaries in 1987. Carlos Basombrío Iglesias, “Sendero Luminoso and ­Human Rights: A Perverse Logic that Captured the Country,” in Shining and Other Paths: War and Society in Peru, 1980–1995, ed. Steve J. Stern (Durham, N.C.: Duke

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University Press, 1998). Essay exploring the complex links between Peru’s Shining Path and h ­ uman rights. Jelke Boesten, Sexual Vio­lence During War and Peace: Gender, Power, and Post-­ Conflict Justice in Peru (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014). Examines rape as a weapon of war. Herbert Braun, Our Guerrillas, Our Sidewalks: A Journey into the Vio­lence of Colombia, 2nd ed. (Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2003). Riveting true account of the po­liti­cal kidnapping of an American businessman in Colombia. Javier Corrales and Michael Penfold, Dragon in the Tropics: The Legacy of Hugo Chávez, 2nd ed. (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2015). A sophisticated analy­sis of Venezuela’s economy and politics ­under Chávez and Maduro. Steven Dudley, Walking Ghosts: Murder and Guerrilla Politics in Colombia (New York: Routledge, 2006). Detailed and intriguing account of the vio­ lence in Colombia. Robin Kirk, More Terrible Than Death: Vio­lence, Drugs, and Amer­i­ca’s War in Colombia (New York: Public Affairs, 2003). A grounded look at the U.S.-­ Colombia relationship from the perspective of activists, survivors, and perpetrators of abuse. Anne Lambright, Andean Truths: Transitional Justice, Ethnicity, and Cul­ tural Production in Post–­S hining Path Peru (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2015). Explores how film, theater, lit­er­a­ture, and other arts challenge the narrative offered by Peru’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. María McFarland Sánchez-­Moreno, ­There Are No Dead H ­ ere: A Story of Mur­ der and Denial in Colombia (New York: Nation Books, 2018). A raw portrayal of impunity and vio­lence. Rebecca Root, Transitional Justice in Peru (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012). Considers the politics and activism b­ ehind transitional justice. Elin Skaar, Jemima García-­Godos, and Cath Collins. Transitional Justice in Latin Amer­i­ca: The Uneven Road from Impunity T ­ owards Accountability (New York: Routledge, 2016). Contains helpful chapters on Colombia and Peru. Michael Taussig, Law in a Lawless Land: Diary of a Limpieza in Colombia (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005). An anthropologist provides a firsthand account of paramilitary vio­lence. Kimberly Theidon, Intimate Enemies: Vio­lence and Reconciliation in Peru (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014). An anthropologist explores how Peruvian individuals and communities grapple with the past at the local level.

148 ­Human Rights Case Christopher Welna and Gustavo Gallon, eds., Peace, Democracy, and ­Human Rights in Colombia (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 2007). Probes the connections between conflict, democracy, and ­human rights in Colombia. Filmography Feature Films Los colores de la montaña (The Colors of the Mountain, 2010). A group of Colombian c­ hildren try to retrieve their soccer ball from a minefield as the real­ity of war sets in. 90 minutes. También la lluvia (Even the Rain, 2012). A Spanish film crew descends on Bolivia to make a film about colonialism just as the W ­ ater War is about to erupt. 103 minutes. La teta asustada (The Milk of Sorrow, 2009). Peruvian film grappling with the legacy of sexual vio­lence during the armed conflict. 94 minutes. Documentaries Cocalero (2006). Award-­winning documentary tracing the trajectory of Evo Morales from coca farmer to president of Bolivia. 94 minutes. Fire in the Andes (1985). A look at the victims of po­liti­cal vio­lence in Peru, as seen through the eyes of indigenous peasants and the relatives of a group of journalists murdered. 35 minutes. Impunity (2010). Focuses on the crimes of paramilitaries in Colombia. 85 minutes. Resistencia: Hip Hop in Colombia (2003). A rare look at hip hop as social re­ sis­tance in war-­torn Colombia. 53 minutes. La Sierra (2005). Vivid documentary tracking one year in the lives of three young ­people in a violent Medellín barrio in Colombia, alternating between armed street ­battles and domestic life. 84 minutes. State of Fear: The Truth About Terrorism (2005). Based on Peru’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, this film uses the country’s experiences with the Shining Path to tell a cautionary tale about the ongoing global war on terror. 94 minutes. To End a War (2017). A journalist covers the peace negotiations between the FARC and the Colombian government. 99 minutes. Useful Websites Centro Nacional de Memoria Historica. A website run by the Colombian government, featuring useful reports and infographics. www​.­centro​de​ memoriahistorica​.­gov​.­co.

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Comisión Andina de Juristas. A leading regional h ­ uman rights NGO in Latin Amer­i­ca, focusing on the rule of law in the Andean region (Spanish site). www​.­cajpe​.­org​.­pe. Comisión de la Verdad. Spanish-language site of the Colombian Truth Commission, with a plethora of multimedia material. https://comision​delaver​ Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos. High-­profile co­a li­tion of ­human rights and civil society groups in Peru. http://­derechoshumanos​.­pe. Defensorías del Pueblo. Spanish-­language websites for ­human rights ombudsman’s offices: Bolivia: www​.­defensoria​.­gob​.­bo Colombia: www​.­defensoria​.­gov​.­co Peru: www​.­defensoria​.­gob​.­pe Dejusticia. Colombian ­human rights NGO. https://­w ww​.­dejusticia​.­org​/­en

6 Brazil and the Ca­rib­bean


he pan-­Caribbean region is marked by cultural diversity and an array of ­human rights experiences. It is conventionally known as having a relatively small population spread out over hundreds of islands with a multiplicity of languages, histories, and identities; but the pan-­Caribbean also reaches Brazil. Some of the countries w ­ ere colonized by the Spanish and o­ thers by the French, British, Dutch, or Portuguese. Some islands remain the territories of the United States, the Netherlands, or the United Kingdom, while ­others are in­de­pen­dent. Some have weak links to Latin Amer­i­ca and are not necessarily “Latin” at all. The h ­ uman rights histories of ­these countries, however, are all embedded in colonial legacies and the transnational slave trade, shedding light on the intersection of race and human rights. Two of Latin Amer­i­ca’s most notorious ­human rights violators are found in the Ca­rib­be­an: Cuba and Haiti. Each of ­these countries exemplifies a par­tic­u­lar set of dynamics. Cuba illustrates state re­sis­tance to ­human rights pressure; the case also shatters conventional assumptions about the type and extent of rights violations that plague the island state. Haiti shows the limits of using force to impose democracy and ­human rights. Both reveal the significance of poverty in impeding ­human rights pro­gress. Given their proximity to the U.S. mainland, the cases also raise crucial issues about the role of U.S. immigration and foreign policy in ­human rights. We also include in this chapter a discussion of Brazil, Latin Amer­i­ca’s largest country and biggest population. Where most Ca­rib­bean countries are small islands, Brazil’s massive territory covers nearly half of South

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Amer­i­ca and shares borders with e­very other South American country save Chile. But, like much of the Ca­rib­bean, Brazil’s Portuguese colonial experience sets it apart from the countries covered in the rest of this book. And like Haiti, Cuba, and the rest of the Ca­rib­bean, Brazil was a major destination for African slaves. ­Today, it strug­gles with the legacies of racism, in­equality, and poverty. What can we learn from this region, which was indelibly s­ haped by the history of the slave trade? What are the h ­ uman rights consequences of this shared history? In reading t­ hese cases, imagine the possibilities for change.

Haiti in the Headlines Haiti has experienced monumental turmoil on the h ­ uman rights front. Perhaps more than any other country discussed in this book, it has failed to develop a state capable of guaranteeing basic h ­ uman rights for its citizens. And b­ ecause the international community—­particularly the United Nations, international NGOs, and the United States—­has played such a large role in Haiti, it regrettably bears much of the blame for the plight of Haiti. It is common knowledge that the colonial history of the Western hemi­ sphere began when Christopher Columbus stumbled upon what the Spanish named Hispaniola, an island t­ oday divided between Haiti to the west and the Dominican Republic to the east. Less known is the history of the indigenous Taino population, which was decimated while the Spanish empire moved on to more lucrative territories in the Amer­i­cas and the French asserted control over half the island. The French oversaw a brutal system of slavery that, by the late 1700s, left Haiti with half a million enslaved African and Afro-­descendants overseen by a small French elite. Most Haitians alive t­ oday are descendants of enslaved Africans. Indeed, the island of Hispaniola was the destination for more than a third of all transatlantic slaves. In 1791, Haitians ­rose up in revolt, fi­nally winning in­de­pen­dence in 1804 and becoming only the second country in the hemi­sphere (­after the United States) to declare in­de­pen­dence from its colonizer. The United States, threatened by the prospect of a successful slave revolt just off its southern shores, joined France and the United Kingdom in imposing a crippling embargo on Haiti, only lifting it ­after Haiti paid a huge fortune in “damages” to France for its loss of property on the island. This left Haiti crippled by debt well into the twentieth c­ entury.

152 ­Human Rights Case From 1915 to 1934, Haiti was occupied by the United States, which imposed a new constitution and a power­ful new military. ­A fter the United States left, Haiti was ruled by two brutal authoritarian leaders in the same ­family. The Duvalier f­amily ruled Haiti for almost three de­c ades: first, François “Papa Doc” appointed himself president for life in 1957; then, Jean-­Claude—­a lso known as “Baby Doc”—­ruled ­until 1986. They strangled Haiti’s po­liti­cal and economic development while the rest of Latin Amer­i­ca was struggling its way ­toward both. During this period, the government sent armed thugs (the Tonton Macoutes) into the streets to beat, abduct, and kill po­liti­cal opponents. Tele­vi­sion sometimes covered the public executions; newspapers published photo­ graphs of severed heads, ensuring a climate of fear. The economy went into a tailspin while Baby Doc stole millions, filling a Swiss bank account that would finance his life in France once he abandoned Haiti in 1986. By then, Haiti had long since become the poorest country in the Western hemi­sphere and the world’s poorest non-­A frican country. A short-­lived glimmer of hope came in 1990, when Catholic priest Jean-­ Bertrand Aristide won a UN-­monitored election, only to be overthrown in a military coup one year ­later. The level of vio­lence immediately escalated, as the state moved to suppress all potential opposition with the help of death squads and by resorting to systematic torture and killing. The United Nations responded to the 1991 coup by imposing sanctions and, two years l­ater, established a joint mission in Haiti with the OAS. The United States responded by intervening with force, briefly occupying the island in 1994 and reinstating Aristide, who governed u ­ ntil 1996. A key ­factor motivating the United States to intervene at the time was the flood of Haitian refugees that had been arriving in Florida since the coup. Since the 1970s, many Haitians had fled their country in small boats, at ­great risk to their lives, to seek refuge in the United States. They often faced a dif­fer­ent reception than their counter­parts fleeing Cuba, a Cold War ­enemy of the United States. ­Because the United States supported the Duvaliers in Haiti as anti-­communist allies, it was unwilling to see t­ hose fleeing Haiti as refugees. Most Haitians w ­ ere detained by the United States and then forcibly returned to Haiti, while most Cubans w ­ ere granted asylum. As the numbers swelled a­ fter 1991, the United States intercepted and then detained tens of thousands of Haitians at a U.S. military base located on Cuban territory but over which the United States asserts permanent control. The Guantanamo Bay Naval Base became identified as the site

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of ­human rights abuses against some 310 HIV-­positive Haitians, who ­were held in what the U.S. District Court ruled was an “HIV prison camp.” ­Because Cuban and other asylum seekers ­were not subjected to HIV screening, racial and/or national discrimination appeared to explain the difference. Protests and an effective ­legal campaign eventually forced the Clinton administration to release the detainees.1 (Guantanamo Bay would ­later become synonymous with U.S.-­perpetrated rights abuses in the war on terror.) In an unexpected twist of events in 2001, Aristide won a controversial election, despite numerous opponents who charged him with corruption and his own brand of repression. Haiti illustrates how even the good intentions of a leader can get caught in a spiral of vio­lence. Aristide had initially been popu­lar ­because of the social justice reforms that he advocated, which resonated with the p ­ eople; he had also dismantled the army, which had been responsible for many ­human rights abuses. ­A fter taking office, however, economic discontent and po­liti­cal mismanagement embroiled Aristide in rumors of electoral manipulation and corruption, as well as accusations of ­human rights abuse. Regardless of the validity of ­these charges, Aristide failed to prosecute h ­ uman rights violators. He also did not always meet U.S. economic demands, which w ­ ere apparently a condition of his return to power. In a context in which the rule of law was extremely weak, vigilante justice moved to fill the void and a wave of revenge killings and lynchings swept the country. With opposition to the status quo mounting, rebel groups composed of former soldiers marched into the capital in March  2004 and—­with the support of the United States and the former colonial power France—­overthrew Aristide, who was promptly exiled to Africa. Widespread vio­lence ensued between members of Aristide’s leftist party and their opponents. A UN peacekeeping force (known by the acronym MINUSTAH) was sent to Haiti in 2004 to establish stability; it would remain in place for thirteen years. The mission was led by Brazilian and Chilean commanders, overseeing thousands of peacekeepers with a mandate to stabilize Haiti through an extremely broad range of tasks, including election monitoring, police reform, de-­arming militias, public safety, rule-­of-­law promotion, and ­human rights monitoring. But UN peacekeepers received negative attention following violent raids of city slums and more than 100 allegations of sexual abuse, some involving minors. Peacekeepers w ­ ere mostly unable to stop the vio­lence amid routine gang vio­lence, kidnappings, and lynchings.

154 ­Human Rights Case To make ­matters still worse, a devastating earthquake hit in 2010. Estimates of the number killed vary wildly, from 100,000 to 316,000; but what­ever the ­actual number, it ranks as one of the deadliest natu­ral disasters in history. Nature was only part of the prob­lem: With the earthquake’s 7.0 magnitude, waves of destruction ripped through shoddy construction in Port-­au-­Prince, the capital and home at the time to 30  ­percent of the country’s population. More than a million Haitians became homeless overnight, then crowded into squalid temporary shelters overseen by hundreds of NGOs. Among the rubble was the UN mission headquarters and several of its leaders. Billions of dollars in aid poured in to “build Haiti back better,” as former U.S. president and UN Envoy to Haiti Bill Clinton promised. But ­little of that money reached victims on the ground in Haiti, let alone the Haitian government, which practically dis­appeared from view for a time as a “republic of NGOs” operated in its stead. Soon the country faced an outbreak of cholera, a disease that had been believed to be consigned to history thanks to advances in sanitation. More than 800,000 Haitians became infected and approximately 9,750 died from the disease. Shockingly, the origin of the outbreak was traced to the

FIGURE 12. A UN peacekeeper from Uruguay with a crowd in Port-­au-­Prince, Haiti, in January 2010, shortly before retreating. Chris Hondros/Getty Images.

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UN peacekeepers: Improper sanitation allowed the disease to spread from a contingent of Nepalese soldiers to the ­water supply in Port-­au-­Prince. In 2016, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-­moon apologized for the UN’s role in the cholera outbreak and pledged to raise $400 million to combat the disease in Haiti, but to date only a fraction of that amount has been raised. A group of Haitian NGOs and their American allies have in fact sued the United Nations, which ironically has shielded itself from accountability. Meanwhile, MINUSTAH continued to strug­gle in the face of public anger and rampant vio­lence, poverty, and humanitarian need. The mission ended in 2017, replaced by a smaller United Nations Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH), deploying 1,300 personnel (mostly police) to strengthen the rule of law. The Haitian case reminds us of the limits and dangers of relying on foreign intervention to secure ­human rights and the importance of a strong rule-­of-­law system. It is difficult to find evidence that interventions by the United States and the United Nations have had positive consequences for Haiti, and even well-­meaning NGOs have had to strug­gle with difficult questions about w ­ hether and how they are setting Haiti up to succeed in the long term. On July 7, 2021, President Jovenal Moïse was assassinated by a group of mercenaries, mostly from Colombia, unleashing a new wave of instability. UP CLOSE: EXPULSIONS FROM THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC The relationship between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, which occupies the other half of the island of Hispaniola, has long been fraught. The Dominican Republic, with a gross national income that is nine times larger than Haiti’s, is significantly wealthier and more stable than Haiti. Dominican leaders have often expressed dis­plea­sure with Haitian immigrants, even while their economy has benefited from low-­wage immigrant ­labor. The media and po­liti­cal elite have sometimes used the word “Haitian” as synonymous with “illegal immigrant.” Historically, like most Western countries, the Dominican Republic had granted birthright citizenship—­that is, anyone born on its territory was automatically a citizen, including the c­ hildren of Haitian mi­ grants with or without ­legal immigrant status. ­A fter years of rising

156 ­Human Rights Case nationalism, however, the government of the Dominican Republic passed the “Plan for the Regularization of Foreigners” in 2015, reversing birthright citizenship: Anyone who could not prove that they ­were born to Dominican citizens or ­legal residents ­were not citizens. For many ­people, that meant that the country in which they ­were born and had lived their entire lives had just revoked their citizenship. Over the next three years, 70,000–80,000 p ­ eople w ­ ere deported from the Dominican Republic to Haiti. This often meant crowding into hastily erected camps in a country in which the language and culture w ­ ere foreign and where the economy was incapable of offering them employment or much opportunity. Some had been Haitian immigrants to the Dominican Republic; ­others w ­ ere Dominicans who fell ­under suspicion ­because of their black skin or Haitian surnames and lacked the documentation required. Despite international outcry, ­little has been done to rectify this situation. Source: Jonathan Katz, “What Happened When a Nation Erased Birthright Citizenship,” Atlantic, 12 November 2018.

To fill the void of state capability, h ­ uman rights groups within Haiti have grown stronger. The Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) stands out in par­tic­u­lar; in collaboration with the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, a Boston-­based NGO, it has kept up an unrelenting fight to bring the rule of law to Haiti one court case at a time. Though their long b­ attle to hold the United Nations accountable for the cholera disaster through a class-­action lawsuit seems now to have failed, they kept the pressure on the United Nations to deliver on its promise of $400 million to end cholera on the island. When former dictator Baby Doc Duvalier made a sudden return to Haiti ­after twenty-­five years in exile, BAI pushed for trying him for ­human rights abuses. Like so many ­others across the region, Duvalier faced mortality before justice, ­dying of a heart attack at age sixty-­three while living u ­ nder h ­ ouse arrest pending prosecution. BAI has also worked both in Haiti and in close collaboration with partners in the United States to pursue justice against perpetrators of a 1994 Raboteau massacre of pro-­A ristide civilians, as well as to train a new generation of ­lawyers within Haiti and to advocate for Dominicans and Haitians unjustly deported from the Dominican Republic.

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Haiti only makes international headlines when a major crisis hits, ­whether a coup, a devastating natu­ral disaster, or a disease outbreak. But the long-­term prob­lem that leaves citizens so vulnerable to t­ hese disasters is poverty. Haiti is the only country in the Western hemi­sphere that qualifies as “low income.” Of the 189 countries ranked in the H ­ uman Development Index in 2019, Haiti was ranked 168th. A minority of ­children advance beyond elementary school, more than a third of w ­ omen cannot read, and ­family units strug­gle to stay intact. How can a society grappling with poverty, illiteracy, and a lack of opportunities hold government accountable? And if development is at the core of h ­ uman rights pro­gress, how can it become a real­ity when the government is plagued by corruption and lacks basic capacities? Haiti’s development has been inequitable, and key institutions like the police and judiciary are badly in need of reform. International actors have linked ­human rights princi­ples to support for democracy in Haiti, but they also made a few fatal errors: They defined democracy mostly in electoral terms; they assumed that rights abuses could be reduced to a single person or po­liti­cal party, supporting one side at the expense of the other; and they too often relied on external intervention rather than on supporting domestic efforts. UP CLOSE: RESTAVEKS In conditions of severe poverty, families strug­gle to care for their ­children. One option is to send ­children to live with less-­poor families where, in exchange for working as domestic servants, the ­children can have better access to food, housing, and education. Most restaveks—­ children who “stay with” ­others—­a re girls who, despite what­ever good intentions their families had when they sent them to live with ­others, are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. Even in the best of circumstances, c­ hildren who should be gaining an education and should be nurtured by a ­family’s affection are spending long days hauling ­water, cooking, cleaning, and taking care of young ­children. In the worst situations, they are beaten, sexually abused, and denied the very education their parents had hoped the situation would provide. Between 100,000 and 500,000 restaveks live in Haiti t­oday. They are considered by ­human rights activists to be modern slaves. Though the practice is illegal in Haiti, the law prohibiting it is not enforced. More than two

158 ­Human Rights Case centuries a­ fter in­de­pen­dence, Haiti has yet to fully liberate itself from slavery. Source: International ­Labor Organ­ization, “Slavery in a ­Free Land,” 29 August  2012. Available at www​.­ilo​.­org​/­global​/­about​-­t he​-­ilo​/­newsroom​ /­features​/ ­WCMS ​_­187879​/­lang​-­​-­en​/­index​.­htm.

Cuba’s Complex Landscape The politics of empire have dominated Cuba’s history. When Spanish control of most of Latin Amer­i­ca ended around 1820, Spain held onto Cuba and Puerto Rico much longer—­a long with territories outside the region, such as Guam and the Philippines. A war of Cuban in­de­pen­dence in 1895 prompted the United States to intervene, though American motives ­were at best mixed. Reports of Spanish outrages against Cubans and the suspicious explosion of a U.S. ship in the Havana Harbor made the intervention popu­lar, but it soon gave way to troubling questions about ­whether the United States was now replacing Spain as an imperialist power. The United States eventually withdrew from Cuba, but it did so on terms that enshrined American dominance, retaining the power to intervene militarily in the small island when it suited U.S. interests. De­pen­dency characterized the relationship. American business interests controlled most of the sugar industry and land on the island, while most Cubans languished in poverty. The system depended on close cooperation between American and Cuban elites. In the eyes of the Cuban public of the 1950s, military dictator Fulgencio Batista was a mere puppet for the United States, made only more despicable by his regime’s brutality, which extended to the torture and execution of thousands. The Cuban Revolution gave Latin Amer­i­ca its most iconic guerrilla leaders—­Fidel Castro and Che Guevara—­and was a seminal turning point in U.S.–­L atin American relations. From 1953 to 1958, armed revolutionaries fought to overthrow the military dictator Fulgencio Batista in Cuba. In 1959, Fidel Castro succeeded in ­doing so and moved to establish a communist regime just 110 miles off the Florida coast. For  U.S. leaders, having communism in their backyard posed an unacceptable threat. Though beyond the scope of this chapter, events like the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 heightened the sense of U.S. presidents and foreign policy

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makers that communism in Latin Amer­i­ca was a real and pre­sent danger to U.S. national security, one sufficient to justify prioritizing support for anti-­communist regimes even if they abused ­human rights. The United States imposed an embargo—­comprehensive sanctions prohibiting trade between the two countries—on Cuba in 1960; it remains in place t­oday. Though Cuba has been subject to sanctions by the United States for sixty years, it continues to resist h ­ uman rights pressure. Contrary to popu­lar views, Cuba’s h ­ uman rights practices have varied enormously over time.2 The highest level of violations occurred between 1959, immediately a­ fter Fidel Castro took power, and 1970. Hundreds of members of the Batista regime ­were tried by military courts and then executed in the immediate aftermath of the Revolution. Even then, the dominant form of abuse in Cuba consisted of po­liti­cal imprisonment. From 1963 to 1968, the regime rounded up tens of thousands of citizens deemed “anti-­social,” including Roman Catholic priests and evangelical pastors, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, or anyone who resisted participation in the new system—­and placed them in forced ­labor camps known at Military Units to Aid Production. Killings, torture, and forced l­abor camps followed, even as the government ­adopted other forms of social control. The period ­after 1970, in par­tic­u­lar, saw the use of other strategies by the regime, such as a reliance on mass migrations to remove opponents. The regime in Cuba remains authoritarian. It does not protect basic po­ liti­cal rights, such as freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, or the right to participate in selecting po­liti­cal leadership through elections. Po­liti­cal pluralism is banned; only the Communist Party is allowed to or­ga­nize itself and rule on behalf of the public. Po­liti­cal imprisonment has been commonplace, and the media is strictly controlled by the state. Even mild forms of po­liti­cal dissent are punished by harassment, assault, or imprisonment. “Acts of repudiation” involve mobs of citizens staging demonstrations outside the homes of dissidents or near their offices or public activities, likely at the behest of the state. They yell, throw rocks, and sometimes assault the targets of their “protest,” creating a climate of intimidation and isolation. B ­ ecause the government controls property, employment, and educational opportunities, drawing negative attention to one’s self can easily result in a lost job or a son or ­daughter losing a place at university. The ability of foreign journalists and h ­ uman rights monitors to operate inside Cuba is severely curtailed.

160 ­Human Rights Case Nevertheless, many aspects of life improved dramatically for most Cubans between 1960 and 1990. Island-­wide literacy and education campaigns and the rapid expansion of universal health care inspired Cubans to believe in the f­uture promised by Fidel Castro. This pro­gress in terms of ­human development stalled when the Soviet Union collapsed in the early 1990s. Cuba lost $6 billion a year in financial support, and a shocking economic crisis set in. During this “Special Period,” Cuba resumed more forcefully the use of repression to quiet dissidents. At the same time, the regime permitted the formation of some ­human rights organ­izations, which have grown in number. This has been partly the result of pressures from Eu­ro­pean countries attempting to cultivate ties with Castro’s po­liti­cal opponents. While some groups could form, freedom of movement and association remained curtailed ­until 2013, limiting the capacity of t­ hese groups to mobilize effectively, and the regime continues to hold prisoners of conscience. The poverty that consumes the country partly negates the regime’s commitment to economic and social rights, though even now Cuba has longer life expectancy and lower child mortality than any other country in Latin Amer­i­ca. In fact, it does better than its much richer adversary, the United States, on t­ hese mea­sures, a testament to the regime’s commitment to the right to health.3 In the Black Spring of 2003, some seventy-­five individuals ­were arrested for po­liti­cal dissidence; among them ­were librarians, journalists, and supporters of a demo­cratic transition. During one-­day t­ rials, they w ­ ere accused of accepting U.S. funding and indoctrination and then sentenced to long prison terms. Their spouses and c­ hildren ­were fired from their jobs and only allowed to visit their loved ones periodically. The prisoners spent years in filthy conditions and many suffered severely from inadequate medical treatment. Just two weeks ­a fter the arrests, a group of the prisoners’ wives and other female relatives created the Ladies in White (Damas de Blanco) group. Emulating Las Madres of Argentina, on Sundays the w ­ omen wear all white and march peacefully through Havana’s streets. In 2005, the Eu­ro­pean Parliament awarded the group the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. “Acts of repudiation” have aimed insults, threats, and fists at them, but the ­women have persisted. By 2011, the seventy-­five prisoners had been released, many of them sent into exile in Spain. But the Ladies in White continue to speak out against po­liti­cal imprisonment in Cuba.

Br a z i l a n d t h e C a ­r i b­b e a n 161 UP CLOSE: YOANI SÁNCHEZ In 2007, Yoani Sánchez, a ­woman residing in Havana, launched a blog called Generación Y in which she vented about the real­ity of day-­to-­day challenges in Cuba: the strug­gle to find fresh food in local markets, the failing public transportation system, and the mind-­numbing tedium of state-­controlled media. Given the extremely ­limited access to the Internet, she had to sneak into tourist ­hotels to upload posts. Soon the blog was shut down by censors, so posts could only be made by emailing them to friends outside the country who posted them in turn, the beginning of a cat-­a nd-­mouse routine with state censors that Sánchez has played ever since. Often, her blog could only be read outside of Cuba, where volunteer translators made it available in more than a dozen languages. Even so, it had effects within the island. For example, she was able to use the blog to alert the international media to the arrest and trial of punk rocker Gorki Aguila for the Kafkaesque crime of “precriminal dangerousness.” The media’s presence outside the court­house may have contributed to the drastically reduced sentence. When her book Cuba Libre (­Free Cuba, a collection of her blog posts) was published in 2010, she was not allowed to receive copies of it ­because, according to state censors, its contents transgressed “against the general interests of the nation, in that it argues that certain po­ liti­c al and economic changes are necessary in Cuba in order for its citizens to enjoy greater material well-­being and attain personal fulfillment. [Such positions] are extremes totally contrary to the princi­ples of our society.” The regime accuses her of “cyberwar” on the government. Despite arrest, surveillance, and an alleged kidnapping, Sánchez has expanded her efforts to use the Internet to create freedom of ­expression and thought in Cuba. In 2014, she launched an online in­ de­pen­dent media organ­ization, 14ymedio, to promote critical journalism. A ­ fter the government refused, for many years, to allow her to leave the country to receive journalism and ­human rights prizes, she has more recently enjoyed greater freedom of movement and traveled the world, critiquing both the glacial pace of reform in Cuba as well as the U.S. embargo. Her work has opened a space in which bloggers and journalists are pushing the bound­a ries of censorship at a time

162 ­Human Rights Case when young Cubans are turning to the Internet for information and inspiration. Source: Larry Rohter, “In Cuba, the Voice of a Blog Generation,” New York Times, 5 July 2011.

When change has come to Cuba in recent years, it has raised hopes only to disappoint. A ­ fter de­cades at the helm, Fidel Castro stepped down in 2008, handing the reins to his ­brother, Raúl Castro. ­A fter another de­ cade, Raúl Castro (then eighty-­seven years old) handed power to Miguel Díaz-­Canel in 2018. ­Under Díaz-­Canel, Cuba wrote a new constitution, approved by popu­lar referendum in 2019. Despite expectations that the new constitution might mean greater po­liti­cal and economic freedom, and might even enshrine gay marriage as a constitutional right, it did none of ­these t­hings. The transition from one-­party rule that most outsiders believe to be inevitable has yet to materialize. Freedom of movement has been very ­limited in Cuba since the Revolution. U ­ ntil 2013, citizens required government permission to leave the island, and that was routinely denied. This reflected a real­ity that many Cubans chose to flee, particularly in the immediate wake of the Revolution but also during periods of economic hardship. In all, some 1.2 million Cubans have left the island since 1959, many of them taking up residence in the United States, where they are accepted as refugees. A large population of Cubans and Cuban-­A mericans in Florida has meant a voting bloc that is able to lobby the U.S. government to remain tough on Cuba. But have the sanctions actually worked, and should they be continued? If they do not work, why do U.S. administrations—­Democrats and Republicans alike—­persist in applying them, especially when so much of the world opposes them? Since 1992, the UN General Assembly has passed an annual resolution condemning the sanctions. In recent years, nearly ­every country in the world has supported this resolution. The U.S. position has been ­shaped by the Cuban-­A merican lobby in Florida and other states, but experts note that changing demographics due largely to immigration by other Hispanic groups may dilute the power of this lobby over time, and younger Cuban Americans increasingly ­favor engagement with Cuba. President Barack Obama’s administration eased some travel and trade restrictions, which ­were reimposed by Donald Trump. The embargo has remained in place.

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From a h ­ uman rights perspective, sanctions against Cuba do not seem to have improved conditions. The government has ­violated ­human rights despite the sanctions, mostly in response to rising social demands associated with periods of economic decline. Some contend that U.S. sanctions have exacerbated the h ­ uman rights situation by keeping most Cubans in poverty. It is in­ter­est­ing to note how the Cuban case differs markedly from the U.S. policy ­toward China, where engagement (not sanctions) has been the preferred choice. If anything, the sanctions make the United States a useful scapegoat that the Cuban government can blame for the island’s strug­gles. UP CLOSE: PUERTO RICO The Spanish-­American War of 1898 resulted in the United States wresting control of Spanish colonial possessions, including the Philippines, Guam, Cuba, and Puerto Rico. Cuba and the Philippines reasserted their in­de­pen­dence, but Puerto Rico and Guam remained unincorporated territorial possessions of the United States. Though Puerto Ricans became U.S. citizens in 1917 (over the objections of Puerto Rico’s po­liti­cal leadership, who favored in­de­pen­dence), they remain disenfranchised; they are not represented in Congress and cannot vote in presidential elections. Most residents object to this colonial status, but they have often differed over w ­ hether Puerto Rico should become in­de­pen­dent, adjust the island’s status, or become a U.S. state. Over the last de­cade, several referenda have been held on the question, and statehood has emerged as the preferred option, with a clear majority choosing that option in the referendum of November 2020. However, it is up to the U.S. Congress to grant Puerto Rico statehood. Social forces on the island have had notable success in opposing U.S. power and rights violations. Vieques, a tiny island that is part of Puerto Rico, was used ­a fter World War II as a place for the U.S. Navy to conduct munitions testing, including of bombs and missiles. Much of the island’s population was displaced ­a fter 1940 so that the U.S. base could be built. Weapons testing then placed the island’s residents in harm’s way, both in the immediate sense of being wounded or killed and by way of longer-­term environmental ­hazards. A ­ fter a resident was killed by a stray bomb in 1999, a transnational network of protest r­ ose against the U.S. presence in Vieques. Four years ­later, the U.S. Navy

164 ­Human Rights Case withdrew from the island as a direct result of transnational pressure. Even if the legacy of historical inequalities resulting from ­earlier forced displacement went unaddressed, the U.S. withdrawal was significant.

Race and In­equality in Brazil Brazil has had its share of ­human rights abuses. The military forcibly ousted the civilian government in 1964, initiating a period of widespread repression and military rule lasting two de­cades. Brazil was one of the region’s first countries to adopt a national security doctrine, which called for suppressing po­liti­cal dissent in the name of domestic stability. The 1960s thus saw egregious h ­ uman rights violations, including disappearances, extrajudicial executions, and systematic torture (like the pau de arara, or parrot’s perch, a form of torture that the Brazilian military perfected—­a person is suspended upside down from a tube, with hands and ankles tied together, while being beaten). ­Human rights violations ­were particularly intense ­until 1974, when the military regime permitted some po­liti­cal and economic liberalization, a period commonly referred to as the abertura (opening). The next de­cade saw regular ­human rights abuses, including severe censorship and suppression of ­labor unrest. Even ­a fter the return of civilian rule and democracy in 1985, h ­ uman rights abuses persisted. Unlike their Chilean and Argentine neighbors, h ­ uman rights groups in Brazil ­were relatively weak, perhaps ­because the height of Brazil’s repression occurred in the 1960s, before a global explosion in transnational h ­ uman rights pressures. Brazil’s vast geography and federal system of governance (like Mexico’s) also meant that local groups faced more hurdles in forging national alliances, at the same time that local state agents ­were more autonomous from the central government and f­ ree to violate h ­ uman rights. The relatively weaker role played by ­human rights pressure in Brazil’s transition to democracy has translated, in turn, into an ongoing climate of violations and impunity. In a region of stark socioeconomic in­equality, Brazil has stood out as an extreme case, consistently ranking among the most unequal countries on earth. The 1980s w ­ ere marked by l­abor unrest and the emergence of a movement in f­avor of land reform, fueled by the belief that better wages and more equal land distribution would give tens of millions of poor Brazilians a route out of poverty. About 1,000 p ­ eople ­were killed by death 4 squads in 1980 alone. Brazil’s Landless Workers’ Movement (Movimento

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dos Trabalhadores Sem Terra, or MST) may well be the largest social movement in Latin Amer­i­ca. It began in the 1980s by occupying unproductive land owned by a wealthy elite, facing down vio­lence from police and private security hired by large landowners. While the MST was controversial, sometimes provoking confrontation (as when its members occupied a ranch owned by President Fernando Henrique Cardoso), it built a strong base of more than a million Brazilians. By the twenty-­first ­century, the MST had shifted its focus to corporations like Monsanto, both for their owner­ship of vast tracts of the countryside and for their development of genet­ically modified crops, seen as a threat to small farms. The MST has won impor­tant victories for the landless and has managed to shape government policies from land reform and sustainable agriculture to education. Still, land owner­ship t­oday remains as unequal as when the movement began. Questions of land owner­ship and use have been especially tense regarding the Amazon rainforest, most of which lies within Brazil. The Amazon is the world’s largest tropical rainforest and the site of incredible biodiversity, including 10 ­percent of all species on earth. The health of the rainforest, often referred to as “the lungs of the Earth,” is crucial to the w ­ hole world; deforestation ­there reduces oxygen and increases carbon dioxide in the environment. Moreover, some 30 million p ­ eople, including 350 indigenous groups, live in the Amazon. The incentives to clear swaths of the forest to make way for dams, roads, ­cattle ranches, logging, and other economic activities are power­ful, and the Brazilian government has been reluctant to curtail ­these activities given the need for revenue and economic development. The World Wildlife Fund estimates that an area the size of Delaware is deforested ­every year within the Amazon. Many have fought to protect the Amazon and the ­people within it. The ­labor activist Chico Mendes was instrumental in the rubber tappers’ movement in the 1980s, which pressured the government to develop extractive reserves so that residents could establish cooperatives to sustainably harvest rubber, nuts, fruits, and other forest products. Environmental activists from around the world took note of Mendes’s work, particularly ­a fter the U.S.-­based Environmental Defense Fund and National Wildlife Federation brought him to Washington, D.C., to speak with leaders of the U.S. government and global financial institutions like the World Bank. His activism also made him a target of landowners in Brazil, who hired assassins to kill him in 1988. News of his death brought renewed

166 ­Human Rights Case pressure on the Brazilian government to act by fulfilling Mendes’s dream of extractive reserves, financed in part by the World Bank, and greater rhetorical sensitivity to environmental concerns. Despite activist efforts, Latin Amer­i­ca ­today is still considered the deadliest region for environmental and land defenders, who are frequently threatened and even killed. In Brazil, the vio­lence that claimed Chico Mendes’s life remains: In 2017, fifty-­seven activists for environmental and land rights w ­ ere murdered in Brazil, more than in any other country. Many more have been threatened or intimidated. Indigenous and other activists within the rainforest are especially at risk.5 Yet it is urban vio­lence for which Brazil is known around the world. In response to surging crime rates, two disturbing trends have emerged. First, death squads have been prevalent in Brazil, often targeting street c­ hildren and other urban poor living in favelas (slums) as well as landless peasants in rural areas. Th ­ ese death squads are often linked to police or include off-­ duty police officers. Second, Brazil has been characterized by a notoriously high degree of institutionalized vio­lence, especially by the police and in the prison system. Police respond regularly to crime and even minor alter-

FIGURE  13. ­Children walk past soldiers in a favela in Rio de Janeiro in 2018. Carl de Souza/Getty Images.

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cations in urban slums with unrestrained abuse, often leading to summary killing. Corruption among police is also high. Crime serves as a power­ful rationale for police corruption and vio­lence, which most often targets marginalized groups in the country’s urban and poor centers. Young black men are disproportionately victims of both violent crime and police vio­lence. Criminal gangs carry out kidnappings and attack police officers, leading to a spiral of conflict. However, police respond with extrajudicial executions and torture. In 2016 alone, 61,619 Brazilians w ­ ere killed. In Rio de Janeiro, on-­duty police routinely kill more than 1,000 residents each year. The armed forces are increasingly deployed to carry out police work.6 Brazil’s police are known worldwide for their abusive practices, but reform is challenging. Thousands of police officers have participated in training courses, learning about ­human rights as well as crime-­scene and investigatory procedures. International actors, from New Scotland Yard to the International Committee of the Red Cross, have helped train Brazil’s police forces. Reform has also involved creating special oversight agencies and review boards. While ­these have been generally positive developments, responding to violent crime with draconian mea­sures seems overwhelming. The difficulties are magnified by the fact that Brazil has a federal system (consisting of a federal police system that works alongside civil and military police forces at the local level), which makes cohesive reform more cumbersome. More substantial change w ­ ill require comprehensive reforms of domestic institutions, including the judiciary and even the private business sector. Without broader systemic change, it ­will be very difficult for po­liti­cal leaders and police forces to break the cycle of combating crime by sacrificing h ­ uman rights. The country’s prisons are among the most overcrowded, dangerous, and dismal in the world; and they include minors as detainees. Prob­lems in the prison system are exemplified by the 1992 Carandiru massacre, in which military police used live ammunition to suppress a prison fight, killing 111 prisoners, many of them shot in the head. The event attracted global attention and became the subject of an acclaimed film. Prison vio­lence is quite widespread, carried out by gangs inside the prison as well as by military police and prison guards. Brazil has the third-­largest prison population in the world a­ fter China and the United States. In 2016, some 726,700 prisoners w ­ ere crowded into facilities built to accommodate half that number; about 40 ­percent of t­ hese

168 ­Human Rights Case prisoners ­were in pretrial detention, meaning that they had not yet been tried or convicted. Pretrial detention can go on for years, leaving detainees to survive as best they can in the brutal and overcrowded prisons. Most join a gang for protection; it is often the only option available, given that prison authorities are known to hand the reins of the prisons over to gang leaders, who they deem better able to exercise control. Hence, even the innocent who enter Brazilian prisons often leave hardened criminals. Meanwhile, rape and assault routinely occur, yet rarely result in investigations. The overcrowding also leads to outbreaks of infectious diseases that claim lives. Brazil is not unique in the region or the world: Prisons are arguably the most impor­tant sites of h ­ uman rights violations in the twenty-­first ­century, and the drug war has led prison populations in some Latin American countries to double or even t­ riple over the past two de­cades, creating inhumane and unsafe conditions. The leading cause of incarceration is minor drug offenses. Critics of Brazilian policing argue that young black men are unfairly targeted for police harassment and arrest. Though neighboring Uruguay has decriminalized marijuana, and many countries across the region have discussed following suit, Brazil has ramped up incarceration for minor drug offenses, putting more young black men ­behind bars. Notwithstanding this state of affairs, h ­ uman rights defenders have strug­gled to mobilize the public around the rights of detainees and criminal suspects. Brazil’s high crime rates create high levels of insecurity, making it hard for the average citizen to sympathize with prisoners and o­ thers targeted by the police. Indeed, politicians have found the voting public more likely to reward tough talk about crime and “iron-­fist” responses to it. President Jair Bolsonaro, elected in 2018, ran in part on the motto “A good criminal is a dead criminal.” So police vio­lence and the prison population continue to escalate, as do the violations of citizens’ rights. Criminal and police vio­lence is one of many areas in which the question of race m ­ atters starkly. Brazil has the largest Afro-­descendant population in the world outside Africa, with approximately 45 ­percent of the population identifying with some African heritage. The number of African slaves brought to Brazil (5.5 million) was approximately eleven times the number brought to the United States. White settlers in Brazil w ­ ere vastly outnumbered by indigenous and African w ­ omen during colonialism; and they ­were encouraged to have ­children across racial lines, whereas interracial marriage was illegal in many U.S. states through the 1960s.

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While the United States had the “one drop rule,” rendering anyone with African heritage black, Brazil’s demographics ­were and are more fluid, with a wide spectrum of skin tones and ways of identifying. Brazil lacked the overtly racist state policies of Jim Crow in the American South or in apartheid-­era South Africa, so Brazilians have often embraced the idea that their country is a “racial democracy”—­a country without racism. The real­ ity was that state policy actively promoted the “whitening” of Brazil by banning African immigrants and encouraging Eu­ro­pean ones, maintaining the huge socioeconomic disparities that existed at the end of slavery in 1888. That in­equality has persisted. ­Today, 80 ­percent of the richest 1 ­percent of Brazilians are white, while 76 ­percent of t­ hose in the poorest tenth of income earners are black or mixed-­race.7 Afro-­descendant Brazilians earn an average of 41 ­percent less than their white counter­parts. Black ­women, particularly t­ hose who live in rural states, are at an even greater disadvantage. And while white students typically flee the underfunded public school system for private schools, black and brown Brazilians typically do not have that option, putting them at a disadvantage in terms of f­uture earnings and when applying to college. Within this context, Brazil embarked on a controversial affirmative action strategy. UP CLOSE: AFFIRMATIVE ACTION IN BRAZIL As in most of Latin Amer­i­ca, Brazilian public universities are more prestigious than private ones, and they serve as an impor­tant socioeconomic ladder. In the 1990s, fewer than 1 ­percent of students at public universities ­were black. Beginning in 2001, however, Brazil began implementing affirmative action policies in public universities. ­These ­were dramatically expanded in 2012, when new laws designated half of all admissions spots in public universities for gradu­ates of public high schools and required reserving seats for poor students and students of color. ­These affirmative action practices have proven highly controversial. One issue is determining who qualifies to fulfill the quota, a tricky issue in a country where the vast majority of the population acknowledges at least some ancestors who ­were black. Students ­were allowed to identify themselves as black, brown, or indigenous, but soon it became apparent that students who ­were considered white ­were entering the quota spots. Does a student with light skin and blue eyes, but who had

170 ­Human Rights Case a great-­grandmother who was black, qualify as Afro-­descendant? How can ­t hese distinctions be made fairly and consistently, many Brazilians asked? Black student organ­izations have sometimes included light-­ skinned students who w ­ ere kicked out of school based on alleged fraud. Several universities have established boards empowered to make final decisions about college applicants’ race, based on photo­graphs and/or interviews with the students in question. The Public Prosecutor’s Office provided guidelines about how to verify someone’s race: “Phenotypical characteristics are what should be taken into account,” read the instructions. “Arguments concerning the race of one’s ancestors are therefore irrelevant.” ­These affirmative action policies merely amplified racist ste­reo­t ypes. Similarly, affirmative action policies w ­ ere passed in 2014 to set aside 20  ­percent of public sector jobs for p ­ eople of color, but they failed to provide criteria for determining race. One state education department implemented a checklist to determine race, with items like “Is the job candidate’s nose short, wide and flat? How thick are their lips? Are their gums sufficiently purple? What about their lower jaw? Does it protrude forward?” Among the outraged responses, one state college professor warned, “­We’re ­going back to the slave trade. During job interviews ­t hey’re gonna stick their hands in our mouth to inspect our teeth.” Other Brazilians point out that it is physical appearance that shapes how a person is treated by police, employers, and o­ thers. “A person who does not look phenotypically black is not the one getting killed by police ­every 23 minutes,” as one activist put it. “So long as this is how racism manifests itself ­here, we need to ensure that the p ­ eople taking up admission spots in universities are the ones with t­hese characteristics.” The racial politics under­lying affirmative action have proven quite complex, leading to unclear and mixed results. Source: Cleuci de Oliveira, “Brazil’s New Prob­lem with Blackness,” Foreign Policy, 5 April 2017.

Racial and economic in­equality w ­ ere issues the Workers’ Party (Partido dos Trabalhadores, or PT) promised to address when it won po­liti­cal power in 2002. The PT had been born half a c­ entury before, when l­abor leaders, intellectuals, and liberation theology Catholics united in opposition to the military regime. Several of its prominent members had been

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imprisoned, tortured, or killed at the hands of the regime. Then, u ­ nder Presidents Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva (2003–10) and Dilma Rousseff (2011–16), Brazil implemented laws aimed at reducing socioeconomic in­ equality, through conditional cash transfers, and protecting ­women from domestic vio­lence (discussed in Chapters 7 and 8). The country saw a period of economic growth, reduced economic in­equality, and the rapid expansion of the m ­ iddle class. However, ­these administrations ­were plagued by corruption scandals that ultimately led to the impeachment of Rousseff in 2016 and Lula’s arrest and conviction in 2017. With the public’s confidence in the PT and indeed most of the po­liti­cal establishment destroyed, not to mention a steep economic recession starting in 2014, the stage was set for a populist to win the presidency. Jair Bolsonaro, a­ fter a long and undistinguished ­career in the military and Congress, staged a provocative, ultraconservative campaign during which he crudely insulted gays, ­women, and Afro-­ descendants, and promised to rid the country of leftists and the “terrorist” MST. He praised the military regime of 1964–85 and advocated the use of torture. He won and immediately set to roll back indigenous rights (moving to eliminate indigenous land reservations in the Amazon), environmental regulations and protection of the Amazon, affirmative action, and police reform. Alternation of power across competitive po­liti­cal elections can be key to a strong democracy. But that does not describe politics in Brazil ­today. With confidence in demo­cratic institutions crushed, the Brazilian public elected a president who openly rejects ­human rights. Leadership ­matters, and h ­ uman rights t­ oday should be viewed as a minimum set of standards for leading a democracy, not as a partisan ideology to be embraced or rejected at w ­ ill.

Conclusion From tiny island-­states to the massive stretches of Brazil, major ­human rights challenges persist across the pan-­Caribbean region. So too do many of the legacies of colonialism—­including in­equality, land concentration, and racism—­and the twentieth-­century strug­gles they inspired. Can Haiti overcome state failure? Can Cuba transition to democracy? Can Brazil withstand threats to its democracy and live up to its ideals of racial equality? Hope lies with the ­people who have again and again risked it all to stand

172 ­Human Rights Case up to repression and demand better of their governments. Ultimately, however, multiple ­factors ­will have to come together if ­there is to be sustainable reform, including leaders who are committed to prioritizing ­human rights princi­ples in a world of competing interests. Discussion Questions 1. Should the United States lift sanctions against Cuba? Would ­doing so improve h ­ uman rights conditions? 2. Is it only a m ­ atter of time u ­ ntil h ­ uman rights conditions improve in places like Haiti? Why? 3. Why have Haitian mi­grants been received differently than Cuban ones by the United States? 4. What do you think about Brazil’s affirmative action policies? Should governments address the legacy of slavery and racism, and, if so, how? 5. Like many other countries in Latin Amer­i­c a, Brazil strug­gles with high crime rates. How can it reduce crime without sacrificing ­human rights?

Resources Additional Reading Beverly Bell, Walking on Fire: Haitian W ­ omen’s Stories of Survival and Re­sis­tance (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2001). Moving narratives by a diverse group of Haitian ­women who recount their experiences in defying abuse. Jean-­Robert Cadet, My Stone of Hope: From Haitian Slave Child to Abolition­ ist (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2011). The best-­k nown advocate for restaveks follows up on his 1998 book, Restavec. Tanya Katerí Hernández, Racial Subordination in Latin Amer­i­ca: The Role of the State, Customary Law, and the New Civil Rights Response (Cambridge, Ma: Cambridge University Press, 2013). Examines the history and real­ity of state-­sanctioned racism in the region, with an emphasis on Brazil. Eric Hershberg and William LeoGrande, eds., A New Chapter in U.S.-­Cuba Relations: Social, Po­liti­cal and Economic Implications (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016). Leading Cuba experts assem­ble a thoughtful collection about the possibilities for reconciliation between the two countries. Jonathan Katz, The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left B ­ ehind a Disaster (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013). A journalist recounts the 2010 earthquake and the problematic role of NGOs and the United Nations in its aftermath. Martha Knisely Huggins, Mike Haritos-­Fatouros, and Philip G. Zimbardo, Vio­lence Workers: Police Torturers and Murderers Reconstruct Brazilian

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Atrocities (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002). Unique look at the perspective of Brazilian police forces committing h ­ uman rights violations. Esteban Morales Dominguez and Gary Prevost, United States–­Cuban Rela­ tions: A Critical History (Lanham, Md.: Lexington Books, 2008). Two po­ liti­cal scientists explore the per­sis­tence of the U.S. urge to dominate Cuba and Cuba’s re­sis­tance to that domination. Fran Quigley, How H ­ uman Rights Can Build Haiti: Activists, ­Lawyers, and the Grassroots Campaign (Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 2014). Highly readable account examining the work of Haiti’s Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI). Kenneth Roth, “­Human Rights in the Haitian Transition to Democracy,” in ­Human Rights in Po­liti­cal Transitions: Gettysburg to Bosnia, ed. Carla Hesse and Robert Post (London: Zone Books, 1999). Critical look at international ­human rights policies in Haiti, written by the head of ­Human Rights Watch. Yoani Sánchez and M. J. Porter, Havana Real: One ­Woman Fights to Tell the Truth About Cuba ­Today (New York: Melville House, 2011). A collection of Yoani Sánchez’s blog posts. Thomas Skidmore, Brazil: Five Centuries of Change, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010). The best-­known American historian of Brazil provides an essential overview. Julia Sweig, Cuba: What Every­one Needs to Know, 3rd ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016). Concise and focused primer on Cuban politics, economics, and history, in a Q&A format.

Filmography Feature Films The Burning Season (1994). Feature film based on the true story of a Brazilian rubber tapper who protests government vio­lence and developers’ plans to clear part of the rainforest. 123 minutes. Carandiru (2003). The lives of the prisoners in this massive Brazilian penitentiary and the 1992 massacre that attracted the world’s attention. 148 minutes. City of God (2003) and City of Men (2007). Graphic images of life in a notorious slum in Rio de Janeiro. 130 and 110 minutes, respectively. Documentaries The Agronomist (2003). Story of Jean Dominique, a Haitian national hero, journalist, and freedom fighter. 90 minutes.

174 ­Human Rights Case Aristide and the Endless Revolution (2005). Detailed account of Aristide’s removal from power in Haiti and the U.S. role. 84 minutes. Balseros (2002). Portrays “rafters”—­people who fled Cuba on makeshift rafts— to escape the economic crisis of the early 1990s, following them in some cases to Guantanamo Bay or to their new (and still difficult) lives in the United States. 120 minutes. The Day That Lasted 21 Years (2012). How the United States propped up the Brazilian dictatorship. 78 minutes. Elite Squad (2007). Award-­winning film about a special-­operations police force combating crime and abusing rights in a Brazilian favela. 115 minutes. Ghosts of Cité Soleil (2006). Power­ful documentary about two ­brothers who use rap m ­ usic to make sense of life in Haiti’s most dangerous shantytown, also showing UN peacekeepers. 85 minutes. Haiti & the Dominican Republic: An Island Divided (2011). Part of PBS’s series “Black in Latin Amer­i­ca,” this episode explores the social construction of race and the tensions between t­ hese countries. 54 minutes. ­Human Rights in Haiti (1999). Covers the violent history of h ­ uman rights in Haiti. 56 minutes. Juízo (Behave, 2006). A sharp look at Brazil’s juvenile courts and detention centers. 80 minutes. Justice (2004). Behind-­the-­scenes look inside a Brazilian criminal court, magnifying broader social inequalities. 102 minutes. Minustah Steals Goats (2011). Examines the UN mission in Haiti from the perspective of both the peacekeepers and the Haitian public. 51 minutes. Stateless (2020). Examines the plight of Dominican residents stripped of their citizenship due to Haitian parentage. 97 minutes. Warrior of Light (2001). Inspiring story of a Brazilian ­woman activist working with street c­ hildren. 94 minutes. What Is It Worth? (2005). Brazilian film weaving together race relations during slavery with con­temporary economic ideologies that perpetuate in­equality. 110 minutes. Useful Website Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti. A Boston-­based NGO working in close collaboration with the Haitian Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI). www​.­ijdh​.­org.


Politics, Rights, and In­equality

7 Social Movements, Identity, and ­Human Rights


olitical ideology and in­equality w ­ ere key ­factors that divided populations and contributed to the vio­lence across the region over the past half ­century, as we saw in previous chapters. But many other impor­ tant f­ actors shape the lives of Latin Americans and sometimes make them targets for vio­lence and discrimination. The members of ­these groups sought one another out to or­ga­nize for their rights. Once democracy was restored and peace reigned across most of the region, the capacity of t­ hose movements to or­ga­nize expanded from the local and national to the transnational and global levels, and their ability to pressure governments increased rapidly. Th ­ ese social movements have won major victories in recent years, a power­ful and heartening story of the ability of h ­ uman beings to demand recognition, re­spect, and rights protections. Each of the following sections focuses on a single power­ful f­ actor that shapes ­human beings’ experiences in this world—­namely, their identity in terms of gender, sexuality, race, or ethnicity. Though t­ hese social markers ­matter a g­ reat deal, this does not mean that the experiences of ­women, LGBTQ, or indigenous Latin Americans are monolithic. T ­ oday, any discussion of identity must acknowledge the ways in which dif­fer­ent identities intersect and dif­fer­ent systems of oppression overlap to reinforce one another. Scholars like Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, who coined the term “intersectionality,” remind us of the danger of silencing the varied voices within each of t­hese groups or movements. An intersectional analy­sis


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acknowledges that when a person experiences multiple patterns of discrimination, the result is not the sum of sexism, racism, homophobia, xenophobia, and classism (for example); it is its own distinct lived experience of marginalization and re­sis­tance.1 This chapter cannot do justice to all the movements that have fought for rights across Latin Amer­i­ca in recent years. Instead, we highlight developments within ­women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, and indigenous rights. Examples of other movements, such as ­those for the rights of ­children and ­people with disabilities, are introduced in the next chapter, and some of the issues surrounding the rights of Afro-­descendants w ­ ere introduced in Chapter 6. In a notable departure from previous chapters, this one more directly addresses social and economic rights as integral to overall ­human rights, a topic we w ­ ill continue to explore in Chapter 8.

­Women’s Rights as ­Human Rights Latin American ­women gained the right to vote through a strong and transnationally linked suffrage movement in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. By the late 1950s, ­every country in the region had granted ­women this right. And both the United Nations and the OAS rhetorically embraced princi­ples of gender equality, obligating states to eliminate the many patterns of discrimination holding ­women back from full participation in the economic, po­liti­cal, cultural, and private spheres. Nevertheless, it took local activists de­cades of demanding that states live up to ­these lofty commitments before fundamental reforms w ­ ere realized. Latin American w ­ omen joined l­abor movements, guerrilla organ­ izations, neighborhood associations, and many other social movements in the twentieth c­ entury. They played a prominent role in the h ­ uman rights strug­gles described in previous chapters. Though many w ­ omen w ­ ere tortured or dis­appeared during the de­cades of authoritarianism and war, most of the targets of t­ hese forms of vio­lence in the twentieth c­ entury ­were men. (It was not ­until much ­later that ­women began to speak more openly about sexual vio­lence, property crimes, and other injustices perpetrated against them during this time.) W ­ omen often felt compelled to or­ga­nize when husbands or ­children ­were dis­appeared. They became the backbone of civil society—­the organizers of protests, the spokeswomen for re­sis­tance, the NGO workers and leaders. ­These ­women drew upon a much longer

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tradition of w ­ omen’s activism and feminism in the region that dates back to at least the nineteenth c­ entury. ­Women’s prominence within the h ­ uman rights world allowed them to capitalize on the return to democracy in the 1980s and 1990s, advancing demands not only for transitional justice but also for ­women’s rights. The slogan of Chilean feminists captured the spirit of the movement: “Democracia en el país y en la casa” (“Democracy in the country and in the home”). Across the region, governments wrote new constitutions, including provisions stressing equal rights, and created new national offices dedicated to the promotion of the rights of w ­ omen. Many female civil society leaders entered government offices, becoming ombudswomen for ­these new offices or for national ­human rights institutions—or entering city councils, national legislatures, and other positions of power. Though ­women theoretically had the same rights as men to run for office and to shape national politics, most countries, ­until the 1990s, filled their legislatures overwhelmingly with male representatives; less than 10 ­percent of the representatives w ­ ere ­women. ­Women remain underrepresented po­ liti­cally in most of the world; t­ oday, only 20 ­percent of U.S. legislators are ­women, and in Haiti it is less than 3  ­percent. But in 1991, Argentina ­adopted a gender quota for the legislature—­a law mandating that a minimum percentage of w ­ omen be nominated for or hold seats. Since then, ­every Spanish-­or Portuguese-­speaking country in Latin Amer­i­ca (except Guatemala) followed suit. In contrast, outside Latin Amer­i­ca, about a third of the world’s countries have gender quotas for national legislatures. The results w ­ ere numerically impressive, as w ­ omen’s repre­sen­ta­tion in some Latin American countries doubled or even tripled. Currently, Bolivia and Cuba have more w ­ omen serving in the legislature than men; and Mexico, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua are approaching parity. Now filling almost 30 ­percent of legislative seats, Latin Amer­i­ca’s w ­ omen are better represented po­liti­cally than t­hose of any other region in the world, including Eu­rope. Scholars of gender quotas cite many reasons to be skeptical of the idea that t­ hese quotas are a quick and easy way to boost w ­ omen’s po­liti­cal power. Many countries have exploited loopholes and limitations in their gender quota laws; ­others have consistently fallen well below the quota’s target or have marginalized female legislators by denying them power­ful roles in decision making. Scholars and activists also point out that increased


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female participation is only substantially beneficial if it results in better repre­ sen­ta­tion of w ­ omen’s interests and the passage of legislation impor­tant to the rights and well-­being of ­women. ­There is no guarantee, however, that a ­woman who gains office in part ­because of gender quotas ­will even be a feminist, let alone promote ­women’s rights once in office. And though gender quotas have recently spread to municipal and regional government and constitutional assemblies in the region, the highest office (that of president) remains male dominated: A ­ fter reaching a peak of four w ­ omen presidents in the region in 2014, the number had fallen to zero again by 2018. Still, ­women like Chile’s Michelle Bachelet give other ­women who aspire to the presidency hope. As she noted, to win she had to overcome several deeply ingrained social norms in her conservative country (which only legalized divorce in 2004): “I have all the sins together—­I am a ­woman, Socialist, separated and agnostic.”2 Gender quotas have become stronger over time—­with some states moving from minimum numbers to parity as the target. According to scholar Jennifer Piscopo, “Despite their limitations, quotas’ evolution demonstrates that Latin American states have established and maintained a feminist commitment to restructuring the distribution of policy power.”3 ­Women’s increased legislative power was key to passing LGBTQ legislation, discussed below, and increasing access to contraception in Argentina, among other key advances. That Bolivia and Chile gave women half the seats in the bodies charged with writing their new constitutions is notable. Po­liti­cal repre­sen­ta­tion is but one small part of ­women’s rights, but ­there are positive trends in other areas as well. For example, girls in Latin Amer­ i­ca t­oday gain more education than boys, and w ­ omen are more likely to attend and gradu­ate from college than men—­a trend common to more developed countries but rare in developing countries. ­Women’s health and access to contraception has improved drastically in recent de­cades, as we ­will discuss in Chapter 8; and w ­ omen now have on average two c­ hildren, compared to five in the 1970s. ­These ­factors have helped expand ­women’s opportunities to participate in paid l­abor. Nevertheless, like their counter­parts throughout the world, w ­ omen in Latin Amer­i­ca are more likely to be poor than are men. This reflects a confluence of ­factors, including employment discrimination (prohibited by law but still common), low property owner­ship rates among w ­ omen, and social norms that primarily situate ­women in the private sphere—­raising ­children and ­running a household—­rather than in the workplace. Latin

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Amer­i­ca has more single-­mother ­house­holds than any other region of the world and, with ­little access to child care, w ­ omen often strug­gle to combine motherhood and work.4 ­Women who do work outside the home have often labored in the “informal economy”—­where work is not regulated or protected by the state. This includes street vendors, domestic workers, subsistence farmers, and most of the self-­employed. Nearly half of all employment in Latin Amer­ i­ca is informal, leaving hard-­won ­labor rights beyond the reach of more than 130 million adults. ­Women are overrepresented in the informal economy, which provides g­ reat flexibility and allows w ­ omen to deploy their entrepreneurial skills; however, the income is often low and ­there are no health-­care benefits, social security, sick leave, or overtime pay. Domestic workers such as ­house­keepers, maids, and nannies are also especially vulnerable to sexual harassment. The most vulnerable type of employment is sex work. The sale of sex by adults is ­legal in almost all of Latin Amer­i­ca. Most sex workers are ­women, but ­there are also sizeable populations of male and transgender sex workers in the region. Since the nineteenth c­ entury, Latin American sex workers have or­ga­nized to demand better treatment and the recognition of sex work as a respectable economic choice made by many w ­ omen who are supporting ­children.5 ­Today, organ­izations representing sex workers’ rights continue to combat social stigma and routine harassment by police. Even in cities like Buenos Aires, where both the sale and purchase of sex are formally ­legal, the real­ity is that many aspects of sex work are criminalized: leasing property or renting ­hotel rooms to sex workers is illegal; arrests of sex workers for vagrancy or loitering or other vaguely defined charges are common; and police often demand bribes from sex workers or their clients. Sex workers rarely report vio­lence to the police and strug­gle to access health care and housing, suffering frequent ­human rights violations.6 One set of organ­izations looks to end sex work, viewing it as inherently exploitative of and degrading to ­women, and a source of in­equality that places ­women in dangerous situations where vio­lence and other ­human rights abuses are more likely. Some also believe that cracking down on sex work w ­ ill reduce ­human trafficking. According to the UN trafficking protocol of 2000, h ­ uman trafficking is the recruitment, transport, transfer, harboring, or receipt of a person, involving the use of force, fraud, or coercion, and for an exploitative purpose. A l­ittle girl sold in Haiti; a Colombian w ­ oman lured to Japan to work as a waitress, only to find herself


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trapped in the sex trade; a Brazilian man brought deep into the Amazon to work in logging, only to be threatened with guns when he tries to escape the brutal conditions—­all are examples of ­human trafficking. An adult who consensually sells sex and is not exploited by any third party, however, would not be a victim of h ­ uman trafficking ­under the UN trafficking protocol. ­Human rights advocates sympathetic to the demands of sex workers to regularize their ­labor often strug­gle with the question of ­whether legalization would inadvertently expand the market for sex and increase the incentives for ­human trafficking. In the last few years, major ­human rights organ­izations have followed the lead of Amnesty International, which in 2016 issued a policy statement in line with the demands of sex workers: full decriminalization of sex work, efforts to combat discrimination and marginalization of sex workers, and new laws to regulate sex work so as to protect rights to health, housing, and so on—­while si­mul­ta­neously fighting ­human trafficking. Ultimately, they believe sex workers are entitled to greater protections and ­will become the best front line against ­human trafficking once they are unafraid to come to the police with complaints about their own treatment or the treatment of ­others.7 The issue remains controversial. It is clear that vio­lence against w ­ omen is a major prob­lem that needs to be addressed. Common types of vio­lence against ­women in Latin Amer­ i­ca include rape, domestic vio­lence, and femicide, while periods of armed conflict have also been marked by sexual slavery, torture, and other crimes. The issue of vio­lence has dominated the ­women’s rights agenda in the region since the 1970s, when activists came to see this as a framework that could encompass both re­sis­tance to state repression and the strug­gle to change social norms that normalized domestic vio­lence. They pushed for one of the earliest international laws on the issue: the Inter-­A merican Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Vio­lence Against ­Women (better known as the Belém do Pará Convention), passed in 1994. ­Every OAS member state ratified the convention, and soon they passed domestic legislation beefing up efforts to combat vio­lence, often through judicial mechanisms. Some followed Brazil’s example and opened ­women’s police stations. ­Women ­were reluctant to report domestic vio­lence, sexual assault, and other gendered crimes to police, who often dismissed their complaints or urged them to “work it out” with their assailants. Staffing certain stations with female police officers tasked with rigorously investigating such crimes and providing shelter for ­women and their ­children, created safe spaces encouraging

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­ omen to come forward. But even supporters acknowledged the critique w that all police ­ought to be expected to uphold the law and ­women’s rights, and that female police officers might be just as machista as their male counter­ parts. For example, interviews with female officers in t­hese stations in the 1990s routinely recorded comments that w ­ omen who ­were subjected to intimate partner vio­lence “asked for it” or that the officers were reluctant to rec­ ord complaints for fear of d ­ oing damage to the f­amily unit.8 Nevertheless, studies indicate that w ­ omen’s police stations increase the reporting of vio­ lence against ­women, break the silence around the issue, and reduce intimate partner hom­i­cides. ­Today, hundreds of w ­ omen’s police stations exist in Brazil and across Latin Amer­i­ca, more than in any other region of the world, but the vast majority of ­women in the region still lack access to them, especially ­women who live in rural areas or speak nondominant languages. UP CLOSE: MARIA DA PENHA Maria da Penha was asleep the first time her husband tried to kill her. ­A fter she was released from the hospital following treatment for multiple gunshot wounds, he tried again, this time by electrocuting her while she showered. Although he failed to kill her, she has been confined to a wheelchair for the rest of her life. Da Penha fled with her three ­children and did something rare in the Brazil of the 1980s—­she relentlessly pursued justice for ­ t hese attacks. The Brazilian courts failed to punish her ex-­husband for the next two de­cades, and so she worked with NGOs to take her case to the Inter-­A merican Commission of ­Human Rights (IACHR). In 2001, the IACHR found that Brazil had failed in its duty to protect da Penha and other Brazilian ­women from vio­lence. Brazil fi­nally passed comprehensive domestic vio­lence legislation in 2006, known as the Maria da Penha Law. Though she is proud that the legislation bearing her name obligates the government to provide special courts for cases of domestic vio­lence, expanded shelters for ­women, and increased punishments for violations, da Penha (now in her seventies) continues to demand better implementation of the law and an end to the patriarchal attitudes that perpetuate vio­lence against ­women. Source: Center for Justice and International Law, “Maria da Penha,” https://­cejil​.­org​/­en​/­maria​-­da​-­penha.


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­ oday, nearly ­every country in the region has passed legislation and enT acted “action plans” to combat domestic vio­lence and other forms of vio­ lence against w ­ omen. Public education campaigns aim to change social attitudes with slogans like “Real men ­don’t hit ­women.” Young ­people are therefore aware of the issue, but beliefs that support the dehumanization of w ­ omen and a reluctance to intervene on behalf of w ­ omen nonetheless persist.9 In a context where male vio­lence against and control over ­women remains normalized, impunity also prevails. Latin Amer­i­ca remains a dangerous place for ­women. One in three ­women in the region suffer domestic vio­lence during their lifetimes, and few perpetrators are held accountable. The issue of femicide, or the murder of a girl or w ­ oman ­because she is female, has gained prominent attention throughout the region, beginning with Mexico, where hundreds of girls and w ­ omen w ­ ere murdered in Ciudad Juárez, and thousands of ­others nationwide. (See Chapter 4.) But protests and campaigns on the issue have become common across the region over the last few years. Of the twenty-­five countries with the highest rates of femicide, fourteen are in Latin Amer­i­ca and the Ca­rib­bean. Again, almost all perpetrators go unpunished. A power­f ul response has emerged ­under the banner of the #NiUnaMenos movement. A collective of Argentine feminist organ­izations took up the demand for “#NotOneLess” in 2015, launching a massive protest the following year ­after media coverage of a fourteen-­year-­old girl who was impregnated and then beaten to death by her boyfriend. Their protest drew 200,000 participants and spread across the region, including perhaps the largest single protest in Peru’s history. It remains one of the most active social movements in Latin Amer­i­ca. ­Women are once again leading the strug­gle to demand better from their governments and to transform their socie­ties, as vio­lence and insecurity impact all populations in Latin Amer­i­ca. Many countries are plagued with high violent crime and hom­i­cide rates, in addition to domestic vio­lence. Systemic changes to the justice system are desperately required, from policing and the courts to the prison system. The fact that Latin Amer­i­ca is “at peace,” with no active armed combat taking place, has reduced po­liti­ cal vio­lence in the region, including the use of rape and sexual exploitation as weapons of war. But new forms of vio­lence and insecurity have robbed many countries in the region of genuine peace. Too often, victims are blamed—­a dead man must have been a gang member, a dead w ­ oman must have been a prostitute. It is ­women who often remind us of ­human

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FIGURE 14. ­Women in Mexico City demonstrate to end vio­lence against ­women, using the hashtag #NiUnaMenos, November 2019. NurPhoto/Getty Images.

beings’ lives and agency, alongside the f­amily members, activists, and attorneys general who fight with them for justice and security. Having achieved much in terms of progressive legislation and public consciousness for ­women in Latin Amer­i­ca, they are now focusing on ways to turn rhe­ toric into real­ity.

Leading LGBTQ Rights Vis­i­ble movements for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) rights have emerged around the world in recent de­cades, putting t­ hese issues at the cutting edge of the ­human rights agenda. Yet gender and sexual identities that do not conform to dominant norms are still punished and suppressed in most countries. In Latin Amer­i­ca, most countries decriminalized homo­sexuality in the 1800s (more than 130  years before the United States) when they ­adopted ­legal codes based on the Napoleonic model, which did not mention homo­sexuality. ­These laws, however, ran up against religious values and machismo, both of which reinforced homophobic attitudes in the public. LGBTQ p ­ eople across the region faced repression by the state and routine harassment and arrest by police.


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Gay rights organ­izations began to or­ga­nize in places like Argentina as early as the 1960s, but the authoritarian regimes that controlled Latin Amer­i­ca during the 1970s and 1980s forced ­people back into the closet. Right-­wing regimes viewed homo­sexuality as abhorrent to traditional Christian values, while left-­wing authoritarian regimes proved equally homophobic. In 1960s Cuba, men suspected of homo­sexuality ­were sent to forced ­labor camps and effeminate boys w ­ ere sent to Yellow Brigades, meant to “re-­educate” them and “cure” them of their alleged ­mental illness.10 Since the 1990s, hundreds of LGBTQ rights organ­izations have emerged across the region and are ­today pre­sent in ­every country in Latin Amer­i­ca. They have demanded and often won progressive changes in the law. In Argentina, gay rights activists have been strategic in working with and against the state, changing public attitudes, and finding key allies among feminists, international partners, and h ­ uman rights organ­izations like the M ­ others of the Plaza de Mayo. Key to their success has been crafting their campaigns in ways that resonate with the Argentine public’s rejection of authoritarianism ­after the dirty war. They persuaded the public that freedom of sexual orientation and gender identity is a universal ­human right, essential to liberty—­not something that affects only the LGBTQ minority. Though ­legal ­battles in the courtroom have been impor­tant for many legislative advances, Latin Amer­i­ca’s LGBTQ activists often emphasized love over legality and showed how protections of sexual diversity fit into a larger picture of physical and m ­ ental health. The emphasis on the universality of the experience of love turned marriage into a focal issue. In 2010, Argentina became the second country in the Amer­i­cas (­after Canada) and tenth in the world to legalize same-­sex marriage. It has since legalized adoption by gay ­couples, allowed individuals to change gender without approval from a doctor or judge, banned “conversion therapy,” and provided reproductive assistance to homosexual c­ ouples ­under the national health-­ care system. Argentina is considered a leader in LGBTQ rights legislation. LGBTQ activists have turned a number of f­ actors to their advantage.11 Greater tolerance for gay rights is correlated with rising incomes and educational levels, and Latin Amer­i­ca has seen a g­ reat deal of both in recent de­cades. The transition of nearly all Latin American countries to democracy over the last two generations ushered in new constitutions with expansive and progressive rights language, which became power­ful tools for activists to use in ­legal arguments for gay rights. And as a “pink tide” of

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socially liberal leftists took over presidencies and legislatures in the 1990s and 2000s, they sought a new agenda to replace the old Marxist Left’s focus on nationalized industries and state-­controlled economies: Gay rights became part and parcel of this new agenda. The willingness of Latin Amer­ i­ca’s constitutional courts to cite foreign pre­ce­dents (known as “transnational jurisprudence”) allowed for a faster pace of l­egal developments diffusing across the region. The Catholic Church vocally opposed the advance of gay rights, but its power was also in decline due to scandals and links to repressive regimes of the past. Pope Francis, who was the first pope from Latin Amer­i­ca, had worked to prevent the passage of gay marriage legislation in his home country of Argentina while he was still a cardinal ­there. But not long ­after his ascension to the papacy in 2013, he made a statement that surprised many: “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good w ­ ill, who am I to judge them?” He urged an end to the “culture wars” in which issues like abortion, contraception, and homo­sexuality are central issues of concern to Catholics; and, significantly, he ended the Vatican’s denunciations of countries that embrace gay marriage.12 This more tolerant stance reflects the attitudes of most Latin American Catholics t­oday, according to opinion polls, but it is not universal. It has generally been Protestants, a rapidly growing minority in the region, who have been most resistant, lobbying politicians across the region to resist gay rights, often with support from evangelical churches in the United States. And the fact that most p ­ eople in the region have tolerant attitudes does not always translate into support for the expansion of gay rights. For example, majorities in e­ very country opposed gay marriage in 2015, except for the two that had already legalized it (Argentina and Uruguay); in El Salvador, a mere 11 ­percent supported legalizing gay marriage.13 The general trend, however, has been for the ac­cep­tance of gay marriage to continue spreading. Latin Amer­i­ca ­today includes some of the most progressive countries in the world when it comes to legislating LGBTQ rights. ­There are no countries in Spanish-­or Portuguese-­speaking Latin Amer­i­ca (unlike the English-­speaking Ca­rib­bean) that maintain prohibitions on gay sex; and almost all prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. In contrast, more than seventy countries around the world prohibit same-­sex sexual intercourse, with punishment varying from imprisonment to the death penalty.


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The rec­ord in Latin Amer­i­ca is fairly strong. Gay marriage is ­legal in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ec­ua­dor, Mexico, and Uruguay. Brazil hosts the world’s biggest and most colorful Gay Pride parades, with millions in attendance. On the health front, countries like Argentina, Cuba, and Brazil have gone much farther than the United States in guaranteeing the right to gender identity; they provide health coverage for sex-­change operations and guarantee access to life-­saving medi­cations for t­ hose affected by HIV/AIDS. Brazil famously took on the world’s phar­ ma­ceu­ti­cal industry, demanding—­and winning—­the right to produce lower-­cost generic medi­cations for HIV in violation of t­hose companies’ patents. And LGBTQ rights organ­izations have pushed Latin American governments to the forefront of efforts to promote gay rights at the United Nations, where no international law explic­itly addresses t­ hese issues. This has been an uphill ­battle given that, outside the Amer­i­cas and Eu­rope, most countries have proven hostile to gay rights. The inter-­A merican system has been an international leader in LGBTQ rights. Several relevant cases have made it to the Inter-­A merican Court of ­Human Rights, starting with that of Karen Atala. When this Chilean judge came out as a lesbian a­ fter her divorce, the Chilean courts switched custody of her three ­daughters to their ­father, arguing that living with their ­mother would put the c­ hildren in a “situation of risk” and impair their development. Atala fought the ruling all the way to the Inter-­A merican Court of H ­ uman Rights. In 2012, the court ruled in her f­avor, finding the Chilean courts had discriminated on the basis of unfounded ste­reo­ types. The court found that in ­doing so Chile had v­ iolated the guarantees of equal treatment in the American Convention on ­Human Rights, and the ruling urged Chile to develop a plan and policies to end discrimination based on sexual orientation. ­A fter her seven-­year ­legal ­battle, Atala regained custody and was awarded financial damages. This decision served as an impor­tant pre­ce­dent by establishing sexual orientation as a “suspect classification” for which discrimination cannot be justified. The ruling was cited by the Mexican Supreme Court ­later that year when it struck down a law prohibiting same-­sex marriage in Oaxaca.14 In 2018, the Inter-­A merican Court of H ­ uman Rights also issued an advisory opinion stating that all Latin Americans are entitled to marriage regardless of sexual orientation and have the right to change their gender and name on official documents in keeping with their own gender identification. The decisions of the court are binding on all OAS member states,

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though some remain resistant, mostly in Central Amer­i­ca and the Ca­rib­ bean. In 2005, Honduras amended its constitution to explic­itly define marriage as occurring between a man and a ­woman; and the Dominican Republic did the same in 2010. ­Will they comply with the 2018 ruling by the Inter-­A merican Court of H ­ uman Rights in f­ avor of gay marriage and gender identity freedom? History suggests that ­will only happen if activists continue to pressure them to do so and to ally with ­others who ­will help amplify their voices. Despite the dizzying pace of change in the twenty-­first c­ entury, serious prob­lems remain for LGBTQ residents of Latin Amer­i­ca. Hate crimes are shockingly common. Between January 2013 and March 2014, the Inter-­ American Commission on H ­ uman Rights found almost 600 cases of death resulting from anti-­LGBTQ vio­lence in the Amer­i­cas.15 Despite its legislative embrace of gay marriage and public awareness campaigns to combat homophobia, Brazil is arguably the most dangerous country in the world for gay and trans ­people, according to hate-­crime statistics. Though it is difficult to determine how many of the hundreds of reported hate crimes

FIGURE 15. Chilean legislators celebrate the passage of a gender identity law in 2018. The law allows anyone over fourteen years old to determine their own ­legal gender identity and name and to have that reflected on official documents and IDs. Francesco DeGasperi/Getty Images.


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each year reflect homophobia or transphobia, and how many are a reflection of the country’s extraordinarily high crime rates in general, LGBTQ Brazilians live in palpable fear. Even in countries with much lower crime rates, ­t here are many cases of acid attacks, beatings, rapes, and murders of ­ people who diverge from cis-­ gender, heteronormative, patriarchal traditions. Most vulnerable of all are trans w ­ omen, who often face such discrimination in the workplace that they have few options other than sex work. The fact that sex work is ­legal in almost ­every country in the region does ­little to mitigate their exposure to risk from hate crimes and “social cleansing” by individuals, gangs, and the police themselves. The life expectancy for trans ­women in Latin Amer­i­ca is between thirty and thirty-­five, less than half that of the general population.16 Not every­one considers LGBTQ ­people to be fully and equally ­human. UP CLOSE: DIANA SACAYÁN In 2012, Argentina passed what the World Health Organ­ization has called “the most advanced gender identity law in the world,” allowing individuals to change gender without approval from a doctor or judge and through a s­ imple administrative procedure. Gender reassignment surgery and hormone treatments are provided through the public health care system and paid for by the government. Thousands of transgender Argentines have taken advantage of the law since then, but one of the first was Diana Sacayán. She had come out to her ­family as trans at the age of seventeen, was repeatedly arrested and imprisoned during many years as a sex worker, and eventually became a highly vis­i­ble trans activist, founding and leading the Anti-­Discrimination Movement of Liberation (MAL). Sacayán, who served on the board of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, was instrumental in introducing initiatives to address discrimination in the health-­care field and passing the 2012 legislation on gender identity. At a ceremony to mark the new legislation at the Casa Rosada, the Argentine presidential palace, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner handed Sacayán a new national identification card, recognizing her as a w ­ oman. In 2015, Sacayán and her activist allies celebrated another victory for trans rights when they persuaded the Buenos Aires Provincial Senate

S o c i a l Mov e m e n t s, I de n t i t y, a n d ­H u m a n R ig h t s 191 (responsible for a territory that includes 40 ­percent of Argentina’s population) to unanimously approve a l­abor quota guaranteeing 1 ­percent of all public administration jobs for trans hires. A month ­later, Diana Sacayán was stabbed to death in her apartment. Even in a city with one of the lowest crime rates and the best rec­ord of LGBTQ protection in Latin Amer­i­ca, trans w ­ omen remain the targets of hate crimes. The average life expectancy of a trans ­woman in Buenos Aires is 47. Diana Sacayán was 39. The only t­ hing unusual about her death was that her killer was ultimately convicted and sentenced to life for his gender-­based hate crime. The newspaper Pagina 12 recognized that even in death, Sacayán had contributed to another breakthrough for trans rights by introducing the concept of “transvesticide” to the Argentine mainstream. Their headline ran “Sacayán Does It Again.” Sources: World Health Organ­ization, quoted in Jordi Díez, The Politics of Gay Marriage (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 260. Pagina 12 covered Sacayán’s work often, and she herself was a contributing writer. See, especially, Adrianna Carrasco, “La Sacayán lo hizo de nuevo,” Pagina 12, 22 June 2018.

The per­sis­tence of everyday homophobia and transphobia translates into discrimination in accessing employment, housing, education, and health ser­vices. Nearly ­every country in the region has national antidiscrimination laws in place covering sexual orientation and gender identity, but t­ hose laws are rarely enforced. A crucial issue in this regard is police harassment and unequal treatment by the police—­a nd in a region with high crime rates, this can be a ­matter of life and death. LGBTQ ­people have been tortured, raped, or murdered with impunity. Reporting such attacks to the police often results in indifference, a refusal by police to take statements or to investigate, and sometimes additional abuse at the hands of the police officers themselves.17 One’s enjoyment of ­human rights is always ­shaped by the intersection of multiple variables and identities, including race and socioeconomic status along with gender and sexuality. The experience of poor, gay men of African descent and white, middle-­class lesbians, for example, might diverge widely, even in the same country. In Latin Amer­i­ca, as elsewhere, difference exists inside the LGBTQ movement as well as outside it, and


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ensuring inclusivity remains a work in pro­gress. For de­cades, lesbians felt sidelined within the gay rights movement, often compelling them to begin their own organ­izations. T ­ oday, ­there is increased recognition of the need to give greater voice and attention to t­ hose who are poor, transgendered, sex workers, and the intersexed, among other members of the movement. In 2013, UN Special Rapporteur on torture Juan Méndez advocated thinking about nonconsensual gender-­“normalization” surgery to alter the genitalia of intersex c­ hildren as well as conversion therapy through the lens of torture. As a victim of torture at the hands of the Argentine military junta of the 1970s, he did not use the word lightly. ­These unexpected linkages have opened a new debate across the region and beyond.

Indigenous Rights Repositioned Latin Amer­i­ca has also experienced a power­ful wave of indigenous activism, often with collaboration and financial support from international NGOs and the Catholic Church. A major catalyst was the 1992 quincentennial of Columbus’s “discovery” of the Amer­i­cas. Indigenous groups worked hard to recast this as a period to reflect on 500 years of oppression of and re­sis­tance by indigenous p ­ eoples. They found new space in which to maneuver ­after the return to democracy, taking advantage of the lower levels of repression and pressing forward with demands to an unpre­ce­dented degree.18 This activism should also be understood as a response to the neoliberal economic orthodoxy that took hold across the region during this period and that indigenous groups often saw as a threat to the territorial claims and environmental well-­being of their members.19 According to the World Bank, in 2010, t­here ­were approximately 42 million indigenous ­people in Latin Amer­i­ca, or roughly 8 ­percent of the region’s total population. More than 80 ­percent of that indigenous population was concentrated in Mexico, Peru, Guatemala, and Bolivia, with smaller populations scattered throughout the rest of the region. While numbers vary depending on methodology and definitions, the World Bank estimates that 780 indigenous groups speak 560 languages in Latin Amer­ i­ca. In Guatemala and Bolivia, most of the population is indigenous, though ­there is disagreement about the exact numbers, particularly in Guatemala.20 The issues confronted by indigenous p ­ eoples in twenty-­first-­century Latin Amer­i­ca vary, but a few major recurring themes are clear, including

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the ubiquity of poverty. Indigenous Latin Americans are 2.7 times more likely to live in extreme poverty than their nonindigenous counter­parts. Though the numbers of Latin Americans living in poverty, both indigenous and nonindigenous, fell in the first de­cade of the twenty-­first ­century, poverty continued to afflict 43  ­percent of indigenous Latin Americans compared to 24 ­percent of all Latin Americans.21 Indigenous ­women face multiple forms of social exclusion and so are even more dramatically impacted by poverty and other indicators of marginalization. By 2010, approximately half of indigenous Latin Americans lived in urban areas. Migration to urban areas has been fueled by many f­ actors but, above all, by the desire for greater access to employment and public ser­ vices. Indigenous Latin Americans living in cities are much more likely to have access to education, electricity, and piped w ­ ater. However, they experience in­equality in new ways. For example, they live in housing that is less secure and sanitary, more disaster prone, and more often located in slums, than the housing of nonindigenous urban residents.22 It is harder to mea­sure urban migration’s impact on indigenous identity and social cohesion. It undoubtedly creates new challenges in most cases, though in Bolivia it has fueled indigenous activism. Some real improvements in the lives of indigenous ­peoples in Latin Amer­i­ca have occurred in recent years. The World Bank writes that “the expansion of education, especially primary education, has been one of the most significant gains of the last de­cade, closing or minimizing the gap that for de­cades had excluded indigenous ­children.” However, “despite widespread laws and regulations protecting indigenous languages and cultures, along with recognition of the importance of providing intercultural bilingual education (IBE) to indigenous ­children, education attainment is still strongly associated with the loss of indigenous languages and cultures.” Language extinction is already a real­ity in the region: one-­fifth of Latin American indigenous citizens do not speak their native language, and three-­quarters of indigenous languages in the region are spoken by fewer than 10,000 p ­ eople.23 Resource extraction and environmental vulnerability dominate indigenous ­peoples’ concerns in many countries. Globalization’s effects often harm the natu­ral environment, with impor­t ant implications for ­human rights. As we saw in Chapter 6, nowhere is this more acutely evident than in the Amazon, an area that includes the world’s largest and most complex rainforest system. The arrival of multinational corporations


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to extract natu­ral resources and exploit the land for commercial gain, as well as financing by international financial institutions like the World Bank, has led to environmental degradation and displaced indigenous ­people inhabiting the land. Activities like logging and mining, ­whether ­legal or illegal, have the dual effect of damaging the environment (e.g., through deforestation) and threatening indigenous p ­ eople (e.g., by destroying traditional ways of life and sources of livelihood). In many cases, vio­lence has erupted and indigenous ­people have been killed simply ­because they w ­ ere obstacles to commercial ventures. State agents have ­either participated directly in this repression or been ­silent bystanders. This is despite the fact that fifteen of the twenty-­two countries that have ratified the International L ­ abor Organ­ization Convention on Indigenous and Tribal P ­ eoples (ILO No. 169, 1989) are Latin American.24 The ILO convention stipulates that indigenous ­peoples must be consulted before development or resource extraction affecting them proceeds. Over time, the princi­ple that indigenous communities have a right to “­free, prior, and informed consent” has gained traction internationally, evolving through the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous ­Peoples, inter-­ American and domestic court decisions, and the work of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Nevertheless, indigenous land and ­peoples have been dramatically impacted by deforestation, mining, and large-­scale infrastructure proj­ects across the region, generally without consultation or consent. Indigenous ­peoples across the region are fighting back through protests and ­legal b­ attles. In a typical scenario, a large oil, mining, or logging com­pany comes into a country, with the support of both the government and power­ful domestic business groups (and sometimes the World Bank). The princi­ple requiring the “­free, prior, and informed consent” of affected indigenous groups is ignored more often than not. Indigenous groups then ally with international partners and NGOs, together undertaking vigorous campaigns. Such a partnership won a victory in Belize, for example. The country’s government authorized a U.S. com­pany to explore an area occupied by the Ma­ya p ­ eople and over their strong objection. A transnational campaign ensued, in which NGOs pressured the government and assisted the Ma­ya in preparing a l­egal case. In its decision, Belize’s Supreme Court cited the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous ­Peoples, noting the Ma­ya’s collective owner­ship of the land based on their traditional use of it; that is, they own it b­ ecause they have occupied it historically.

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Similarly, in 2012, the Sarayaku of Ec­ua­dor won a case before the Inter-­ American Court of ­Human Rights, which found that the government had ­violated the rights of the tribes by allowing an Argentine oil com­pany to build roads, cut down forest, and lay more than 1,400 kilos of explosives ­under Sarayaku territory—­a ll against the express wishes of the community. The government complied with the ruling, allowing 1,200 p ­ eople to remain on their ancestral lands and collect damages from the state.25 In 2019, the Waorani of Ec­ua­dor (with the support of Amazon Frontlines, an international NGO based in Ec­ua­dor) won a similar victory in domestic courts, prevailing in a lawsuit against the government for attempting to auction their land to an oil com­pany without gaining the tribe’s consent. ­These inspiring victories should not obscure the dangerous real­ity that Latin Amer­i­ca’s environmental and land defenders face. Latin Amer­i­ca is ­today considered the deadliest region for such activists, who are frequently threatened and even killed. In Brazil, such vio­lence claims more lives (approximately sixty each year) than any other country in the world; and many more have been threatened or intimidated. Indigenous and other activists in the rainforest are especially at risk.26 Indigenous ­people throughout the Amazon and in Central Amer­i­ca continue to launch transnational campaigns protesting global market forces, including the construction of dams and the extraction of minerals. ­Others have engaged global markets, incorporating ethnic goods into the global marketplace. For example, indigenous groups create local crafts, using the Internet and foreign partners to market their goods to a broad audience throughout the world. ­These businesses are typically treated as communal enterprises or cooperatives, where profits are shared equitably among the group’s members. Similarly, local groups often participate in ecotourism, permitting foreigners to enter and experience their world. Of course, ethnic engagement in globalization does not come without risks; it is still pos­si­ble that profits ­will not be evenly distributed, groups ­will be dislocated, and foreign partners ­will exploit fragile relationships. This also raises the question of how far responsibility for h ­ uman rights conditions should extend in a globalizing world. For instance, is buying “fair-­trade” products (i.e., t­hose that have been certified to meet certain ­labor and ecological standards) from Ben and Jerry’s or The Body Shop empowering local groups to become self-­sufficient? Or are critics correct when they assert that buying local handicrafts made in the Amazon or


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Guatemalan highlands and taking exotic trips to rainforests are only hypocritical half mea­sures that distract from the inevitable collision course pitting globalization and indigenous ­peoples against one another? ­A fter all, despite growing recognition about the importance of indigenous rights and the right to a clean environment, t­ hese types of rights are weakly institutionalized. A key challenge in coming de­cades, therefore, ­will be to integrate indigenous ­people into the global economy while protecting their rights. Indigenous groups, typically viewed as powerless, have nonetheless managed in recent years to change po­liti­cal conditions, forming po­liti­cal parties in Colombia, Ec­ua­dor, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, and winning po­ liti­cal power in Bolivia. They also have challenged power­ful multinational actors and participated in market interactions to their advantage. And yet, despite changes to po­liti­cal rhe­toric and laws prohibiting discrimination, half of indigenous citizens of Bolivia, Mexico, Guatemala, and Peru report that discrimination is a real­ity in their lives.27 ­Human rights improvements have not been uniform, but they show the power of local groups to claim rights even against historically dominant states and market forces.

Conclusion In addition to the major movements for h ­ uman rights discussed in this chapter, the region also has movements fighting for the rights of the landless, prisoners, c­ hildren, and other marginalized groups. While most of the movements seek to uphold universal rights, they are also more likely than ­human rights movements of the past to focus on identity and to address head-on the intersection of civil and po­liti­cal rights with social, economic, and cultural rights. ­Those who study h ­ uman rights in Latin Amer­i­ca have often focused on the abuses of the 1970s and 1980s and the long strug­gle to overcome impunity for ­those crimes and to advance transitional justice. Even ­today, when Latin Amer­i­ca makes news headlines outside the region, it is often for reasons connected to vio­lence or massacres. That may have obscured the fact that Latin American h ­ uman rights strug­gles of the twenty-­first ­century are ones that resonate with the rest of the world. ­W hether we are discussing abortion and domestic vio­lence, marriage equality and trans identity, or the threat of infrastructure proj­ects to indigenous lands, it

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should be clear to students in the Global North that Latin Amer­i­ca’s strug­gles for ­human rights ­today are similar to ­those strug­gles in their own countries. What can other regions learn from Latin Amer­i­ca? What can Latin Amer­i­ca learn from other regions? A comparative approach to studying ­human rights has never been more impor­tant. Discussion Questions 1. What do indigenous rights, ­women’s rights, and LGBTQ rights campaigns in Latin Amer­i­ca have in common with their counter­parts in other regions of the world? 2. Why might students outside the region be surprised to learn about advances in ­women’s and LGBTQ rights in Latin Amer­i­ca? How does this conflict with ste­reo­t ypes and dominant narratives about the region? 3. How can socie­ties effectively combat racism, sexism, and homophobia? Given the region’s colonial legacies, what do you see as the key ­drivers of change in t­ hese areas?

Resources Additional Reading Daniel Berezowsky Ramirez, “La Corte Interamericana redirige el debate sobre los derechos LGBT,” Proceso, 5 February 2018. https://­w ww​.­hrw​.­org​/­es​ /­news​/­2 018​/­02​/­0 6​/­l a​-­c orte​-­i nteramericana​-­r edirige​-­e l​-­d ebate​-­s obre​ -­los​-­derechos​-­lgbt#. Examines the pathbreaking decisions of the Inter-­ American Court on LGBTQ rights. Edward Cleary, Mobilizing for ­Human Rights in Latin Amer­i­ca (Bloomfield, Conn.: Kumarian, 2007). Highly readable and compact introduction to key h ­ uman rights movements. Javier Corrales and Mario Pecheny, eds., The Politics of Sexuality in Latin Amer­ i­ca: A Reader on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights (Pittsburgh, Penn.: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2010). Excellent se­lection of pieces covering many countries, topics, and contradictions in LGBTQ rights and activism in the region. Cecília MacDowell Santos, ­Women’s Police Stations: Gender, Vio­lence and Justice in São Paulo, Brazil (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005). A sociologist offers a detailed ethnography of ­women’s police stations in Brazil. Deborah J. Yashar, Contesting Citizenship in Latin Amer­i­ca: The Rise of Indig­ enous Movements and the Postliberal Challenge (Cambridge: Cambridge


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University Press, 2005). Sophisticated study of growing indigenous influence in the region. Filmography Feature Films Before Night Falls (2000). Based on Reinaldo Arenas’s memoir of the same title, depicting the treatment of homosexuals in Cuba and Arenas’s eventual exile and ­battle with AIDS in the United States. 133 minutes. The Burning Season (1994). Based on the true story of a Brazilian rubber tapper who protests government vio­lence and developers’ plans to clear part of the rainforest. 123 minutes. Fresa y Choco­late (Strawberry and Choco­late, 1993). Combines comedy and politics to depict the surveillance, censorship, and hostility of the Cuban regime and public ­toward gay men. 108 minutes. Kiss of the Spider ­Woman (1985). Portrays two prisoners—­one trans, the other a Leftist revolutionary—­forced to share a cell. Based on Argentine Manuel Puig’s 1976 novel of the same title, it was ­later turned into a Broadway musical. 120 minutes. Documentaries Apaga y Vámonos (Switch Off, 2005). Story of the foremost hydroelectric com­ pany in Latin Amer­i­ca, revealing government complicity in environmental degradation and h ­ uman rights violations in Chile; shows the government failing to protect indigenous rights and using anti-­terrorism legislation to arrest protesters. 87 minutes. Between Midnight and the Rooster’s Crow (2005). A multinational corporation in Ec­ua­dor, in collusion with the government, is responsible for environmental degradation and ­human rights violations. 66 minutes. El Cacao (2015). The dark side of choco­late production, focusing on the economics of fair trade cacao and indigenous Panamanians. 20 minutes. Connected by Coffee (2014) Examines fair trade policies, cooperatives, and the resilience of Latin American coffee growers. 70 minutes. Mariela Castro’s March: Cuba’s LGBT Revolution (2016). A short, uncritical documentary applauding Castro’s leadership on LGBT issues in Cuba. 39 minutes. Useful Websites Amazon Frontlines. An international NGO based in the Ec­ua­dor­ian Amazon and focused on indigenous rights. www​.­amazonfrontlines​.­org. Cultural Survival. A U.S.-­based NGO focused on indigenous rights. www​ .­culturalsurvival​.­org.

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International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association. Founded in 1978 and based in Geneva, Switzerland, it brings together more than 1,300 groups from around the world. https://­ilga​.­org. Minorities at Risk. An impressive collection of qualitative and quantitative data on minority groups, searchable by region. www​.­mar​.­umd​.­edu. Red de Mujeres Trabajadoras Sexuales de Latinoamerica y el Caribe (RedTraSex). Founded in 1997, a network of sex workers’ organ­izations from across the region. http://­redtrasex​.­org. Survival International. An NGO with offices across Eu­rope and in the United States with a focus on tribal ­peoples. www​.­survivalinternational​.­org.

8 Economic and Social Rights


he Universal Declaration of ­Human Rights embraces a wide range of rights, from civil and po­liti­cal to economic, social, and cultural rights (hereafter, ESC rights). That declaration itself points to the interdependence of all ­human rights: Without adequate health, education, and food, for example, the rights to vote, run for office, or access justice are meaningless. The fulfillment of one set of rights is required for the enjoyment of the o­ thers. Significantly, this cornerstone of international h ­ uman rights law—­the inclusion of ESC rights—­partly had its origins in Latin Amer­i­ca’s pioneering constitutional and l­egal tradition.1 ­Until recently, however, the world of h ­ uman rights advocacy was overwhelmingly focused on civil and po­liti­c al rights, especially violation of physical integrity (i.e., bodily harm). Several f­ actors help explain why this was so. First, po­liti­cally, the United Nations and the current international ­legal system developed within the geopo­liti­cal context of the Cold War. In one camp w ­ ere communist states that promised to advance many ESC rights, while often crushing civil and po­liti­cal freedoms; in the other camp was the United States, which claimed to uphold civil and po­ liti­cal freedoms but did not see economic and social pro­gress as rights or entitlements. ­Because of t­ hese intense disagreements, it was not pos­si­ble to have one unified body of international law that would bind states to the obligations listed in the Universal Declaration of ­Human Rights. Instead, two l­egal documents emerged: the International Covenant on Civil and Po­liti­cal Rights (1976) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1976). Many within the U.S.-­led camp claimed

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that ESC rights ­were less impor­tant, maintaining that bias even ­after the Cold War ended. For example, when Amnesty International broadened its mandate to include ESC rights in 2001, the respected news magazine the Economist criticized Amnesty for blurring its mission and pandering to developing countries. It argued that “the moral imperative to stop poverty or disease is . . . ​not as convincing as the moral imperative to stop torture.”2 Another argument is that ESC rights are more difficult to enforce than civil and po­liti­cal rights. This is b­ ecause many core civil and po­liti­cal rights are thought of as negative rights, while ESC rights are largely construed as positive rights. For a state to fulfill its responsibilities to protect negative rights, it must refrain from violating citizens’ rights: it must not torture citizens, stop them from exercising ­free speech, or unjustly deprive them of their liberty, for example. Positive rights, however, require the state to take action and provide citizens with some benefit: for example, to build and staff schools and hospitals, to deliver sanitation systems and clean w ­ ater, and to foster employment. The negative/positive distinction is sometimes cast as freedom from the state versus freedom through the state. Likewise, negative rights are viewed as being immediately applicable and enforceable through courts (“justiciable”), while positive rights are deemed aspirational, insufficiently defined, expensive to achieve, and difficult to uphold in courts. To prove that a state has tortured or dis­appeared a citizen is one ­thing, but how do we determine that a state v­ iolated the right to education for ­children or social protection for the el­derly? In a real­ity where states do not have equal resources, is it fair to blame t­ hose with fewer resources for failing to uphold the ESC rights of their citizens? The negative/positive rights distinction, however, is misleading. In real­ ity, ­every right requires both freedom from state intrusions and concrete state action. Consider freedom from torture, typically considered a negative right. Certainly, the state must not torture its citizens. But it also has positive obligations: The state must train its police and other security personnel to not torture; to maintain prison facilities that meet high standards; and to provide access to courts, judges, and ­legal repre­sen­ta­ tion for t­ hose who are tortured. Similarly, the right to maternal health (usually thought of as a positive right) requires not only the provision of hospitals, medical personnel, and medicine but also that the state refrain from discriminating against or turning away ­mothers who seek medical care.


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­ ere is consensus in international law that dif­fer­ent pathways may exist Th for implementing civil and po­liti­cal rights versus ESC rights. Two broad treaties provide a distinctive framework for ESC rights: the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1976) and, specific to the Amer­i­cas, the Protocol of San Salvador (1988). Both obligate states to immediately enforce certain minimal ESC rights, such as compulsory and universal primary education, trade ­unionization, and the protection of ­children from exploitation. But they also require the progressive real­ ization of ESC rights: States must take immediate steps to ultimately achieve the highest standards pos­si­ble. This recognizes that the availability of resources varies from state to state and that standards change over time. Inaction, however, is not permitted. States must do all they can to work ­toward fulfilling t­ hese rights. Similar language is found in more specific international laws relevant to ESC rights, such as the Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against ­Women (1979), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), and the Inter-­ American Convention on the Protection of the H ­ uman Rights of Older Persons (2017). Fi­nally, the claim that ESC rights are not justiciable no longer holds ­water. In domestic and international courts around the world, citizens are turning to courts to uphold their ESC rights. During the transition to democracy in the late twentieth c­ entury, Latin American countries that did not already include ESC rights in their constitutions incorporated them into new ones, and/or they passed legislation dramatically expanding ESC rights. Citizens who found that real­ity did not live up to t­ hese new promises have often been successful in seeking redress in domestic courts. In Brazil, for example, citizens have won cases in which the courts demanded that the government provide day care and kindergarten access as well as medi­cations and health ser­vices. The Inter-­A merican Court of H ­ uman Rights issued groundbreaking decisions on ESC rights in 2018, finding Chile guilty of violating an el­derly man’s right to access emergency medical care and finding Guatemala guilty of violating the rights of ­people infected with HIV/AIDS to adequate medical treatment. Latin American countries have also been at the forefront of new UN mechanisms to make the right to health more justiciable.3 ­Today, the Economist’s words from 2001, pitting poverty and torture against one another, seem far-­fetched and dated. Many ­human rights organ­izations have integrated ESC rights into their missions and carry

E c onom ic a n d S o c i a l R ig h t s 203

out campaigns specifically focused on them. No longer are demands for access to clean ­water or health care considered strictly the domain of humanitarian organ­izations, charities, or development experts; they are acknowledged as central concerns of ­human rights. It is clear that poverty, in­equality, and insecurity ­were core c­ auses of the violent upheaval that defined Latin Amer­i­ca in much of the twentieth ­century; and they remain central to the drama of criminality, forced migration, and lack of opportunity still playing out t­ oday. On many fronts, Latin Amer­i­ca made ­great strides in the three de­cades between 1990 and 2020, providing millions of p ­ eople with opportunities for education, health, and a path to the m ­ iddle class that their parents could only dream of. It is imperative to examine where the region made pro­gress and where the greatest challenges remain. ­Today, data about ESC rights is more abundant than ever before. This is in part thanks to the UN-­led efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs; 2000–2015) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs; 2015–30). Both ­were global frameworks highlighting accurate data and benchmarks for ensuring pro­gress on key ESC rights issues like freedom from poverty, access to health care, and gender equality. Success achieving many ambitious MDGs, such as reducing by half the percentage of the world’s ­people living in extreme poverty, led to the expanded set of SDGs that are the focus of

FIGURE 16. United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (2015–30).


P ol i t ic s, R ig h t s, a n d I n ­e qua l i t y

world attention t­ oday. We trace below Latin Amer­i­ca’s pro­gress on some of ­these goals. Sadly, since early 2020, the world has been forced to reckon with a global pandemic caused by the Covid-19 virus. Latin Amer­i­ca has been severely affected by the pandemic. In 2020, the region suffered approximately 20  ­percent of all recorded Covid-19 cases and 30  ­percent of deaths due to the virus—­even though it has only 8 ­percent of the world’s population. Much of the pro­gress described below was wiped out, at least in the short term. Thinking about Latin Amer­i­ca’s enormous socioeconomic advances over the last three de­cades is impor­tant ­because it reminds us of what is pos­si­ble; reckoning with the challenges of ­today is discouraging but must galvanize us to take action to restore lost gains and address the under­lying issues that made the region especially vulnerable to t­ hese setbacks.

Poverty and In­equality The year 2020 was not the first time that Latin American economies contracted dramatically, pushing more p ­ eople into poverty. Almost all Latin American economies suffered during the 1980s, sometimes called the “lost de­cade” for Latin American development; at the end of that de­cade, not only ­were many countries in the region poorer than they ­were at the beginning of the de­cade but life was shorter and harder by many mea­ sures. Fortunately, from 1990 to 2008, ­these economies grew, with ­human development indicators also showing signs of pro­gress. A ­ fter the global financial crisis of 2008, Latin American economies again recovered, though growth rates w ­ ere slower. In 1989 not a single economy in Latin Amer­i­ca fell into the upper-­middle-­income or high-­income categories; thirty years later, all but Haiti did. (See T ­ able 4.) B ­ ecause a high-­income economy—­ measured by gross national income (GNI) per capita—is not sufficient on its own to ensure that all citizens enjoy a decent quality of life, we also rely on the ­Human Development Index as a better indicator of how ­people are faring. If economic expansion is only profiting a small elite, that is, then the rest languish ­behind. A government may decide how to tax economic activity so as to raise its bud­get, and then allocate funds depending on what goals it prioritizes. Money lost to corruption or invested in programs that do not have an immediate impact on well-­being (such as military expenditures) is money that could be spent on roads,

E c onom ic a n d S o c i a l R ig h t s 205 ­Table 4. A Statistical Portrait of the Region, 2019


Population (million)

Income Level (GNI/ capita at PPP)a

­Human Development Level and Global Rank

Coefficient of ­Human In­e quality



High ($21,190)

Very high (46)




Upper m ­ iddle ($8,554)

High (107)




High ($14,263)

High (84)




High ($23,261)

Very high (43)




High ($14,257)

High (83)


High ($18,486)

Very high (62)



Costa Rica


Upper m ­ iddle ($8,621)

High (70)


Dominican Republic


High ($17,591)

High (88)




Upper m ­ iddle ($11,044)

High (86)



Upper m ­ iddle ($8,359)

Medium (124)




Upper m ­ iddle ($8,494)

Medium (127)




Lower ­middle ($1,709)

Low (170)



Upper m ­ iddle ($5,308)

Medium (132)


El Salvador

Honduras Mexico









Peru Uruguay Venezuela United States

32.5 3.5 28.5 329.1

High ($19,160)

High (74)


Upper m ­ iddle ($5,284)

Medium (128)


High ($29,558)

Very high (57)


Upper m ­ iddle ($12,224)

High (103)


Upper m ­ iddle ($12,252)

High (79)


High ($20,064)

Very high (55)


Upper m ­ iddle ($7,045)

High (113)


High ($63,826)

Very high (17)


Source: United Nations Development Programme, ­Human Development Report 2020, at www​.­hdr​ .­undp​.­org​/­en​/­data. a GNI is gross national income. PPP is purchasing power parity.

schools, hospitals, and poverty reduction. Yet even when we examine h ­ uman development scores, as T ­ able 4 indicates, most Latin American countries ­today are classified as having High or Very High ­Human Development levels. Millions of Latin Americans climbed out of poverty between 1990 and 2020, a fact to be celebrated, but many remained in a vulnerable state,


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Percentage of population

35 30 25 20 15 10 5 0

Very Poor (less than $2.50/day)

Poor ($2.50–4/day)

Vulnerable ($4–10/day) 1993

Middle Class ($10–50/day)

Wealthy (more than $50/day)


FIGURE 17. Change in Income Groups in Latin Amer­i­c a. Source: United Nations Development Programme, Multidimensional Pro­gress: Well-­ Being Beyond Income (New York: United Nations, 2016).

struggling to make it to the ­middle class. Economic expansion certainly benefited t­ hose at the bottom and m ­ iddle of the socioeconomic scale. As Figure 17 shows, in the span of twenty years (1993–2013), the percentage of Latin Americans living on less than $2.50 a day (and therefore considered “Very poor”) was cut in half. The percentage of “Poor” (­those living on between $2.50 and $4.00 a day) also fell. Yet the most common economic experience in Latin Amer­i­ca at the start of 2020 was vulnerability, a precarious position between poverty and the m ­ iddle class, in which a single major setback (an unexpected illness, a bad harvest, the breakup of a domestic partnership) could land one right back in poverty. Unfortunately, 2020 brought not one but many setbacks, reversing the trends of the last several de­cades and pushing millions of the vulnerable back into poverty. Regionally, economies contracted by approximately 8  ­percent in 2020. The fact that about half of all Latin American workers are in the informal economy made imposing lockdowns difficult, as workers dependent on daily earnings continued to work in order to survive. Th ­ ese are not jobs that can be done remotely. Informal employment also left most workers beyond the reach of policy interventions used by richer countries, like unemployment benefits, support for struggling businesses, and new workplace safety rules.

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A close look at T ­ able 4 confirms that pro­gress has been real but left far too many outside its benefits or in danger of setback. While Southern Cone countries enjoy roughly the same level of h ­ uman development as Eastern Eu­ro­pean ones, Haiti has one of the lowest levels of ­human development on Earth, and Central American states rank alongside India and Namibia. Furthermore, ­these statistics are national averages; they often obscure the stark real­ity of in­equality at the local level. Despite reductions in in­equality in the early twenty-­first ­century, Latin Amer­i­ca remains the most eco­nom­ ically unequal region of the world. This is true both in the sense that the gap between the richest and poorest countries within the region is extreme (Haiti and Chile seem hardly to share a real­ity) and the sense that the distribution of wealth is more skewed within individual countries than in any other region. T ­ able 4 includes a mea­sure of in­equality. Haiti and Brazil remain the most unequal countries in Latin Amer­i­ca (though several African countries have even more in­equality), but ­every country in the region is more unequal than the United States, which is included h ­ ere for comparative purposes. We cannot forget that race, ethnicity, gender, and other identities and ­factors also shape in­equality. Guatemala is classified as an upper-­middle-­ income country with a medium level of ­human development, yet a quarter of its population lives in serious poverty, and obtaining sufficient food is a daily strug­gle for many ­house­holds. Nearly half of all Guatemalan ­children experience stunted growth as a result of inadequate nutrition, with that number climbing in the poorest municipalities to 90 ­percent. Indigenous w ­ omen, moreover, are especially vulnerable to poverty and hunger, reflecting a broader pattern of the “feminization of poverty”: ­Women are more likely to be poor partly b­ ecause they are often the single head of ­house­hold.4 All told, indigenous and Afro-­descendants tend to face the harshest socioeconomic picture. While undernourishment fell dramatically alongside poverty (from 15 ­percent to less than 5 ­percent of the region’s population), we cannot say the right to food was being protected for all Latin Americans who continue to live in poverty.5 And, ironically, millions of Latin Americans now suffer from obesity and chronic health prob­lems that used to be associated only with the most developed economies. In real­ity, both undernourishment and obesity are correlated with poverty.


P ol i t ic s, R ig h t s, a n d I n ­e qua l i t y UP CLOSE: FOOD IN VENEZUELA

Hugo Chávez promised to fulfill the right to food for all Venezuelans, imposing price controls, expropriating farms and factories, distributing food to the poor and to schoolchildren, and operating inexpensive state-­run grocery stores. Yet in the end the most vis­i­ble result of his administration w ­ ere the empty grocery store shelves produced by frequent food shortages and lines—­sometimes several blocks long—of ­people waiting to buy what products remained. Hunger and malnutrition rates soared. The administration of Nicolás Maduro, who replaced Chávez in 2013, took to offering boxes of ­free food in exchange for loyalty at the ballot box; recipients received text messages reminding them that “Love is repaid with love.” Meanwhile, the Maduro administration refused to allow international aid, including food and medicine, to enter the country, only acquiescing in 2019. At that point, millions of Venezuelans had fled and millions more w ­ ere suffering malnourishment. The Red Cross estimated its work in Venezuela would be its largest humanitarian relief effort since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war. Sources: Rhoda Howard-­Hassmann, “The Right to Food U ­ nder Hugo Chávez,” ­Human Rights Quarterly 37, 4 (November  2015): 1024–45; Stephania Taladrid, “Venezuela’s Food Crisis Reaches a Breaking Point,” New Yorker, 22 February 2019; and Anatoly Kurmanaev and Ana Vanessa Herrero, “­A fter Years of Denial, Venezuela’s President Allows Aid to Enter,” New York Times, 16 April 2019.

Health and Families Latin Amer­i­ca enjoyed big gains in terms of health in recent de­cades, ­until 2020. Though crises like the outbreaks of Zika or cholera w ­ ere the types of Latin American health news that made headlines outside the region, the fact is that on average Latin Americans t­oday live almost as long as their U.S. counter­parts. In Chile, Costa Rica, and Cuba, life expectancy is higher than it is in the United States. The MDGs and SDGs include a number of goals related to motherhood and early child survival. ­These issues are also emphasized in international ­human rights law, which obligates states to extend ­every effort to

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protect m ­ others and families. One impor­tant mea­sure of how states are performing in this regard is the “­Under 5 Mortality Rate,” or the number of ­children who die before age 5, out of e­ very 100,000 live births. That number plummeted in ­every country in the region, typically by half or even two-­thirds. The maternal mortality rate (the number of w ­ omen who die from childbirth, out of ­every 100,000 live births) fell by more than half in 11 out of 20 countries in the region, and ­rose in only one (Venezuela). Investments in public health led to healthier m ­ others and c­ hildren, as well as to an incalculable release from the suffering and heartache of generations past. It also led to smaller families. Families with five or six ­children ­were commonplace a few de­cades ago, but ­today the average number of ­children per w ­ oman in Latin Amer­i­ca is two. This stems from many f­ actors, including better access to contraceptives and greater urbanization, but demographic experts also point to child survival as a driving force b­ ehind this “demographic transition”; when families are confident their c­ hildren ­will survive, they have fewer of them. Lower fertility rates have led most populations to stabilize, which then gives governments and families the ability to invest greater resources in improving well-­being. As always, t­ here are outliers, which should not be forgotten. Each time she gives birth, a Uruguayan ­mother’s chance of survival is twenty-­four times higher than that of a Haitian ­mother. And health outcomes vary widely inside countries as well as between them. Indigenous, Afro-­ descendant, poor, and rural Latin Americans remain at a huge disadvantage. Indigenous ­women in Guatemala are twice as likely to die in childbirth as nonindigenous Guatemalans. The fertility rate remains high in Guatemala, particularly among the poorest, contributing to a growing population of under-­resourced families. Abortion is illegal almost everywhere in the region. While it is completely banned, without exception, in some countries (Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua), another nine countries allow it only in certain circumstances—­for example, if the life of the ­mother is endangered, the pregnancy is a result of rape, or the fetus suffers severe abnormalities. Two countries (Cuba and Uruguay) do not restrict abortion. Argentina legalized it in December 2020, and Mexico’s Supreme Court decriminalized it in September 2021. Despite the prohibitions, millions of abortions still occur each year in Latin Amer­i­ca and, b­ ecause they are illegal, most are unsafe and some end in serious physical harm or even death. Abortions also carry the risk of jail time. Central American countries have especially


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restrictive abortion laws and impose prison sentences on ­those who have or perform abortions. Dozens of Salvadoran ­women are among ­those in Central Amer­i­ca who have been sentenced to long prison terms for aggravated hom­i­cide ­after claiming to have miscarried. Activists on both sides of the issue have long fought for what they see as fundamental rights: the rights of ­women to make decisions over their own bodies versus the rights of unborn ­children. UP CLOSE: W ­ OMEN’S RIGHTS AND F ­ AMILY PLANNING Many Latin American governments have sought to reduce fertility rates, but some have gone too far in their efforts to promote smaller families. ­Under President Alberto Fujimori, the Peruvian government carried out an aggressive population control plan in the 1990s that resulted in declining maternal and child mortality, as well as lower fertility rates. But thousands of w ­ omen allege that they w ­ ere sterilized without their consent, pressured psychologically, bribed with food and other economic incentives, and given inadequate postoperative care, resulting in harm and in some cases death. To reach numerical targets for tubal ligations, government doctors targeted poor and often uneducated indigenous ­women. Many of ­t hese ­women joined together and ultimately pressured the government to create an official registry of the victims and to bring the perpetrators to trial. More than twenty years ­later, some 6,000 ­women are listed in the registry, and criminal charges are proceeding against the former president and his health ministers for t­ hese alleged h ­ uman rights violations. Governments have also failed to ensure the conditions required to build healthy families. In 2015 and 2016, for example, the Zika virus infected large numbers of Latin Americans. Most infections ­were caused by mosquito bites and led to no or minor symptoms, but ­women infected during pregnancy ­were at ­great risk of bearing ­children with microcephaly, a condition causing extremely small heads and severe developmental prob­ lems. Several governments advised their citizens to delay pregnancy for months—or even years. In El Salvador, the health minister recommended that no one should have a baby before 2018. In the face of governments’ failure to provide adequate access to contraception and health care to all citizens, such advice struck most activists as not merely impractical but a violation of w ­ omen’s fundamental rights.

E c onom ic a n d S o c i a l R ig h t s 211 Source: Amnesty International, “Peru: Order to Indict Fujimori Is a Milestone in Search for Justice for Victims of Forced Sterilization,” 28 April  2018, and Azam Ahmed, “El Salvador’s Advice on Zika Virus: ­Don’t Have Babies,” New York Times, 25 January 2016.

In thinking about how health and ­human rights intersect, it is impor­ tant to keep in mind social determinants, or ­whether ­those f­actors that serve to marginalize (or privilege) p ­ eople also shape their access to health care. It is also essential to remember ­those whose physical and ­mental abilities differ from ­those of the majority. Are they being counted as full and equal ­human beings? About 15 ­percent of the public has a disability of one form or another, though the number is higher in post-­conflict settings like Colombia and Central Amer­i­ca. While living conditions vary, p ­ eople living with disabilities are united in the experience of discrimination and social exclusion. Overwhelmingly, physically disabled Latin Americans do not attend school as ­children, and they end up living in poverty.6 We have less data about ­those struggling with ­mental illness, who also face social stigma. Like ­others around the world, Latin Americans with disabilities have fought to make public institutions like schools, hospitals, and courtrooms accessible and inclusive. Activists for disability rights have demanded a seat at the ­t able to negotiate and implement new laws, as conveyed in their motto, “Nothing about us without us.” E ­ very Latin American country has ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2008). Like other treaty bodies, the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities receives reports from countries and pushes them to do better. Support for disability rights across the region is the direct result of transnational activism, as local groups have mobilized on behalf of the issue and partnered with global allies. Together they hold governments accountable for ongoing discrimination and raise public awareness about the importance of disability rights. Disability rights activists in the Amer­i­cas ­were also instrumental in the development and implementation of international laws banning the production, sale, and use of antipersonnel land mines, which have injured and killed citizens of post-­conflict states for centuries. Ec­ua­dor stands out in the area of disability rights, thanks partly to Lenín Moreno. A mid-­level bureaucrat, Moreno was shot during an attempted robbery in 1998 and has used a wheelchair ever since. He became an advocate for disability rights and eventually used his power as


P ol i t ic s, R ig h t s, a n d I n ­e qua l i t y

vice president to make sure that disability rights w ­ ere fully incorporated into the new constitution that Ec­ua­dor a­ dopted in 2008. He oversaw Ec­ua­ dor’s first comprehensive study of disability rights and worked to dramatically expand funding for disability ser­vices. New legislation provided greater access to medical care and social ser­vices and introduced disability rights education programs. In 2017, Moreno was elected president, becoming the only head of state in the world using a wheelchair. Despite all the pro­gress, health care is marked by the same stark in­ equality that we find in other dimensions of ­human development in the region. Covid-19 disproportionately impacted poor and working-­class residents who are more likely to live in crowded neighborhoods and homes and to depend on public health-­care facilities, where they w ­ ere twice as likely to die as t­ hose treated in private hospitals.7 Though l­imited capacity in the health-­care system and state was responsible for much of the suffering and death, poor leadership exacerbated the crisis in the two biggest countries in the region. Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro and Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador w ­ ere from opposite ends of the ideological spectrum, but they shared a populist style and willingness to initially dismiss the pandemic as a minor concern. The United States lost more lives to the pandemic than any other country in the world in 2020– 21, followed by Brazil (which lost more than six hundred thousand), followed in order by India, Mexico, and Peru.

Education and C ­ hildren’s Opportunities Education is another fundamental h ­ uman right. Without it, p ­ eople are at a disadvantage in claiming other rights. Yet, too often, education is treated as a privilege, a view that reinforces the ongoing marginalization of some groups. One of the most impor­tant phi­los­o­phers of education, Brazil’s Paulo Freire (1921–97), saw this clearly long before education was extended to most Latin Americans. In early twentieth-­century Brazil, t­ hose who w ­ ere illiterate w ­ ere denied the right to vote, so Freire dedicated himself to adult literacy programs. He promoted the idea of “critical pedagogy”—­education through dialogue so as to empower citizens to see the world around them and act to improve it. He encouraged learners to think critically about systems of oppression, including how language and educational institutions worked to promote conformity and to suppress social change. In his most famous work, Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1968), Freire wrote, “It is necessary

E c onom ic a n d S o c i a l R ig h t s 213

that the weakness of the powerless is transformed into a force capable of announcing justice. For this to happen, a total denouncement of fatalism is necessary. We are transformative beings and not beings for accommodation.” He saw education as key to ending fatalism and empowering individuals and communities to become masters of their own lives. In the twenty-­first c­ entury, education has become much more attainable for Latin American ­children than it was during Freire’s lifetime. In 2019, 94 ­percent of all c­ hildren in the region ­were enrolled in primary school, and almost all of them w ­ ill become literate. Most w ­ ill go on to secondary school, though millions still drop out before graduation. Several social policies lie ­behind the vast expansion in education in recent years. In par­tic­u­lar, governments across the region redirected education spending from public universities, to which mostly middle-­class and wealthy students had access, to public primary and secondary education that benefits poor students especially. In addition, programs like conditional cash transfers (CCTs) have given strong incentives for ­children to attend school. Conditional cash transfers are forms of financial support that typically go to the female head of a poor h ­ ouse­hold. In addition to being means-­tested (i.e., you must be poor to qualify), receiving ­these benefits also depends on meeting certain conditions, such as having ­children who attend school, receive vaccinations, and get regular check-­ups. The goals are ambitious: to reduce poverty and in­equality while boosting the education and health of ­children and increasing w ­ omen’s financial autonomy. The largest CCT programs, Mexico’s Oportunidades and Brazil’s Bolsa Familia, w ­ ere some of the earliest in the world and have been widely replicated. Latin Amer­i­ca has more CCTs than any other region, reaching millions of families. Brazil’s Bolsa Familia covers a quarter of the population, or more than 50 million ­people. The results are noteworthy. As school attendance soared, child ­labor fell across the region. CCTs reduce the need for some c­ hildren to drop out of school to earn money as a way of alleviating the poverty at home. The CCT payments (an average of $55 a month in Brazil, for example) are more than a poor ­house­hold’s ­children would be bringing in, making the choice to keep ­children in school financially feasible. Studies of CCTs find that the money is spent on food, school supplies, shoes, and other essentials that improve the dignity and well-­being of families. The gains made pos­si­ble by CCTs, however, have by no means eliminated the prob­lem of child l­abor. The International L ­ abor Organ­ization (ILO), a specialized agency of the United Nations, has led international


P ol i t ic s, R ig h t s, a n d I n ­e qua l i t y

efforts to eliminate the “worst forms” of child ­labor, including sexual exploitation of c­ hildren, the use of child soldiers, and l­abor involving dangerous conditions, such as mining and the manufacture of fireworks. The ILO has also set fifteen as the minimum acceptable age for employment. Though Latin American countries agreed to ­these standards in theory, child ­labor u ­ nder fifteen remains common; c­ hildren continue working on every­ thing from shining shoes to farming to factory work. Indeed, millions of ­children work or live in the streets of Latin Amer­i­ca. Most of t­hese “street youth” are home-­based; that is, they return to their families and homes at night ­after earning money by washing windshields or selling b­ ottles of w ­ ater in the streets. Street-­based youth, however, are homeless and have largely left or lost contact with their families. In all cases, street youth are vulnerable to pollution, drug addiction, trafficking, and hopelessness. Historically, vio­lence from on-­and off-­duty police has posed a significant threat to street youth. In 1993, police officers in Rio de Janeiro notoriously opened fire on a group of sixty street ­children, killing eight. The Candelária massacre, as it came to be known, shocked Brazilians and led to a movement for c­ hildren’s rights, which in turn led to improvements in juvenile detention centers and police training. Yet as gang-­and drug-­related activity has expanded in many countries in the region, the tendency to see street youth as criminals rather than as vulnerable ­children persists. Large child-­migrant flows out of Venezuela and Central Amer­ i­ca could create even more street youth. Nearly all ­children in the region now attend primary school, and secondary education and even college have become accessible: The share of 18-­to 24-­year-­olds attending college has doubled this c­ entury to 43 ­percent.8 Yet the results have been uneven. Many students still drop out before graduating from high school, and the quality of education is often poor. In fact, access to a college education remains as skewed as the distribution of income in the region. Though education can be a power­ful tool to address in­equality, educational systems across the region do as much to reinforce in­equality as to combat it. Middle-­class and wealthy ­children typically attend private primary and secondary school b­ ecause of the poor quality of public schools. Upon graduating, they aspire to attend a public university but always have the fallback option of private colleges if they ­aren’t among the lucky few to be accepted to the public ones. An angry Chilean student movement has drawn attention to the issue of for-­profit educational institutions and the in­equality and lack of opportunity inherent in the educational

E c onom ic a n d S o c i a l R ig h t s 215

FIGURE 18. A ten-­year-­old boy works in a brick factory in El Salvador in 2013. Jan Sochor/Getty Images.

system, leading to massive protests in 2011 and 2013 and again in 2019. (See Chapter 6 for Brazil’s affirmative action policies, as a response to racial and socioeconomic inequity in higher education.) Overall, quality and access remain substantial obstacles to actualizing more fully the ­human rights to education in the region. Again, Covid-19 dealt major blows. In 2020, nearly all schools w ­ ere closed. C ­ hildren often had access only to a few hours of television-­based educational curriculum each day, and teachers scrambled to send assignments via WhatsApp. If schools and governments fail to make up for the loss in education, a generation of ­children may face diminished opportunities and pay in the f­ uture, particularly if some choose never to return to school. The challenges are daunting.

Environmental Sustainability Economic and social rights are closely intertwined, and nowhere is this more apparent than with basic rights to environmental sustainability. ­These require concrete action on climate change, more sustainable patterns of production and consumption, and the conservation of biodiversity. ­There is a


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growing recognition that failure to mitigate environmental damage could reverse many of the gains in health, nourishment, and income described in this chapter. Though Latin Amer­i­ca has contributed relatively l­ittle in terms of green­house gas emissions, it is already experiencing negative consequences from climate change, including more frequent and devastating natu­ral disasters as well as droughts and floods. As the 2010 earthquake in Haiti demonstrated, if countries lack the infrastructure to withstand ­these disasters, pro­gress on h ­ uman development can be quickly wiped out.9 Latin Amer­i­ca is also home to 40 ­percent of the world’s biodiversity. Protecting the region is impor­t ant for the global ecosystem and for the ­people who live in its remote spaces, as the discussions of the Brazilian Amazon (Chapter 6) and indigenous p ­ eoples (Chapter 7) suggest. The 80 ­percent of Latin Americans who live in urban areas face other environmental concerns, including high levels of air pollution that damage health. Though governments in the region have been ­eager participants in international agreements such as the Paris Agreement (2016), they have been slow to develop the sustainable infrastructure (including mass transit systems and renewable energy sources) required to meet their environmental commitments. Meanwhile, the economies of the region are still largely driven by unsustainable patterns of resource extraction and the export of raw commodities, which work against fulfilling stated goals. Strug­gles over competing interests ­will be waged into the foreseeable ­future. UP CLOSE: HYDROELECTRIC POWER IN BRAZIL Brazil relies on hydroelectric power for more than 80 ­percent of its energy. The power of Amazonian rivers is captured by enormous dams, generating more hydroelectric power than any other country except China. But is Brazil leading the way on clean, renewable energy, or is it jeopardizing a fragile ecosystem and undermining indigenous rights? The case of the Belo Monte mega-­dam proj­ect was controversial as soon as plans for its construction ­were developed in 1975. Adverse environmental impacts would be enormous, including flooding, local species extinction, deforestation, and permanent changes to the Xingu River, a major tributary to the Amazon River. The ­human impact would also be severe, as local communities would be forced to relocate, and indigenous tribes in the area would lose local fisheries and have to contend with the rapid development of roads and an influx of p ­ eople.

E c onom ic a n d S o c i a l R ig h t s 217 In the 1980s, a broad co­a li­tion of environmental activists, indigenous leaders, and international celebrities united in a passionate movement to stop the dam. At a 1989 conference to discuss the proj­ect, a w ­ oman named Tuira from the Kayapó tribe scraped a machete across the face of an official from the state electricity organ­ization, a confrontation that captured international attention. Not long a­ fter, the World Bank canceled a $500 million loan to finance the dam. But Brazil’s population and appetite for energy grew, and routine blackouts and energy rationing persuaded the state to revive the Belo Monte proj­ect. Activists continued to fight, turning Belo Monte into an international symbol of environmental strug­gle. They managed to stall the proj­ect for de­cades and to pressure the state into redesigning it so as to reduce its harm, but they failed to stop the dam, which was completed in late 2019. It is the third-­largest dam in the world, as mea­ sured by energy production. Belo Monte has brought jobs, roads, and a mall to what was a remote Amazonian area populated by small fishing communities, indigenous tribes, sloths, and jaguars. It pumps electricity to mega-­cities like São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. It has also displaced 20,000 ­people, all but wiped out the fish that ­were a cornerstone of local diets, submerged rainforest ­under ­water (thereby releasing methane), and brought the Amazon closer to an ecological tipping point beyond which it cannot recover. Sources: Eve  Z. Bratman, “Contradictions of Green Development: ­Human Rights and Environmental Norms in Light of Belo Monte Dam Activism,” Journal of Latin American Studies 46 (2014): 261–89; and Anthony Faiola, Marina Lopes, and Chris Mooney, “The Price of ‘Pro­ gress’ in the Amazon,” Washington Post, 28 June 2019.

Conclusion The scale of the challenges mentioned ­here, as well as the whirlwind of statistical data available to us, can make it easy to miss the basic truth that life has been getting better for most Latin Americans. Longer lives, healthier babies and ­mothers, surging school enrollments, and reductions in child ­labor meant better opportunities for the p ­ eople of the region to live fulfilled lives. Though the Covid-19 pandemic undermined this pro­gress, the region has learned a g­ reat deal about how to lift its citizens up. Renewed


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pro­gress is not inevitable; it depends on effective public policies that prioritize citizens’ ESC rights. ­There is ­every reason for hope, but the fight for more inclusive and sustainable development continues. While the vio­lence and death associated with torture, war, and genocide have attracted global attention and traditionally been associated with how we think about ­human rights and the region, economic and social rights are no less significant. They affect the quality of everyday life and the ability of ­people to live decent lives. In a sense, their deprivation constitutes a betrayal of ­human rights, as we concede that it is acceptable for some ­people (but not ­others) to live in inhumane conditions. Internationally recognized economic and social rights set a minimum standard. Delivering this standard is in practice no small feat, requiring economic resources and implicating private interests. The challenge at the core of the international system’s ­legal and ethical obligations is to persevere: to take constant, concrete steps to realize economic and social rights for more ­people. Discussion Questions 1. What do you find most promising about economic and social rights in Latin Amer­i­ca, and why has change been so difficult? Be as specific as pos­si­ble. 2. What value is ­there in framing poverty, food insecurity, and health issues as ­human rights? 3. Should the ­human right to education apply to a college education? Why or why not? 4. How is environmental sustainability a ­human right? Does its intersection with indigenous rights in the region help or hinder the prospects for environmental reform?

References Additional Reading Dollars & Sense Collective and the North American Congress on Latin Amer­ i­ca, eds., Real World Latin Amer­i­ca: A Con­temporary Economics and Social Policy Reader (Dollars & Sense, 2009). A collection of articles surveying key issues across the region. Susan Eckstein and Timothy P. Wickham-­Crowley, eds., Strug­gles for Social Rights in Latin Amer­i­ca (New York: Routledge, 2002). Explores a wide range of social strug­gles in the region. Shareen Hertel, Unexpected Power: Conflict and Change Among Transnational Networks (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2006). Activist networks

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for economic and social rights, within the context of globalization; including a Mexican case study. Philip Oxhorn, Sustaining Civil Society: Economic Change, Democracy, and the Social Construction of Citizenship in Latin Amer­i­ca (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2011). Explores the broad social forces remaking the region, with case studies of Chile, Bolivia, and Mexico. Filmography Documentaries El aula vacia (The Empty Classroom) (2015). A series of short films, both fiction and documentary, examining the education system across the region. 112 minutes. Bending the Arc (2017). Follows the work of Partners in Health, a group of doctors and activists fighting for global health equity, with special attention to Haiti. 102 minutes. The Dev­il’s Miner (2005). Follows two teenage ­brothers who work in a silver mine in Bolivia. 82 minutes. The Dignity of the Nobodies (2005). ­Women farmers, shantytown dwellers, and hospital workers discuss their strug­g le against globalization. 120 minutes. Disruption (2014). A group of economists seek to financially empower South American ­women. 85 minutes. The Inheritors (2008). A series of scenes of child l­abor in poor, rural Mexico. 90 minutes. Schools in Fight (2018). Brazilian high school students respond to announced school closures by organ­izing protests and peaceful occupations through social media. 78 minutes 74 Square Meters (2012). A social experiment to move marginalized families into a middle-­class neighborhood in Chile. 69 minutes. Useful Websites ESCR-­Net. An international co­a li­tion of organ­izations dedicated to ESC rights. The website offers monitoring reports, case law, and other helpful resources. www​.­escr​-­net​.­org. ­Human Development Reports. Broad range of relevant statistics offered by United Nations Development Programme; interactive, highly searchable database. http://­hdr​.­undp​.­org​/­statistics. Pan American Health Organ­ization. Regional division of the World Health Organ­ization. www​.­paho​.­org​/­en.


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Unicef. Latin American and Ca­rib­bean division of the UN’s body dedicated to ­children. www​.­unicef​.­org​/­lac​/­en. World Bank. A key international financial institution focused on economic and ­human development, with many excellent resources in a searchable site. www​.­worldbank​.­org.


Agents of Reform

9 ­Human Rights Defenders


hen ­human rights are ­violated, ­people fight back. The ­people who stand up against injustice are a diverse group—­from the college student who joins a protest and the l­awyer who prosecutes a dictator to the forensic scientist who amasses evidence of a massacre and the legislator who votes in f­ avor of a new h ­ uman rights law. Some of t­ hose ­people think of themselves as h ­ uman rights activists, particularly if they are active members in a nongovernmental organ­ization or social movement focused on h ­ uman rights. O ­ thers may not think of themselves as activists, but when they take action to protect or promote ­human rights they too become ­human rights defenders.1 This chapter examines the specific role of non-­state groups (both local activists and international nongovernmental organ­izations), domestic allies, and states in applying ­human rights pressure. Cooperation between local and international activists and NGOs often results in bringing local ­human rights crises to the attention of intergovernmental organ­izations (examined in Chapter 10) and to states themselves to re­spect ­human rights or use their leverage to push ­others to do so. Chapter 11 w ­ ill explore how social scientists tackle the challenge of explaining when and how ­these pressures successfully change h ­ uman rights conditions.

Local Activists Local h ­ uman rights groups are on the front lines of everyday ­human rights strug­gles. W ­ hether they consist of w ­ omen’s groups; indigenous advocates; relatives of ­human rights victims; l­egal aid agencies; religious


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or social justice organ­izations; or t­ hose fighting on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender ­people, h ­ uman rights defenders risk their lives to protect h ­ uman rights. And t­hose forced to leave their home countries ­because of a fear of persecution often continue to fight for h ­ uman rights from abroad. For example, some 200,000 Chileans went into exile when Pinochet came to power. They brought the strug­gle for ­human rights in Chile to their new homes and formed a dense web of solidarity, connecting Chile to the rest of Latin Amer­i­ca, the United States, Eu­rope, and elsewhere. Chileans as far afield as Egypt or­ga­nized petitions, facilitated refugee resettlement, raised funds, and raised awareness.2 Not surprisingly, ­human rights defenders are one of the principal targets of ­human rights abuse in Latin Amer­i­ca. Thousands of the region’s ­human rights workers have been killed; many face death threats, continual harassment, and intimidation. Front Line Defenders, an international ­human rights organ­ization, found that in 2018 more h ­ uman rights defenders w ­ ere killed in Colombia and Mexico than in all other countries in the world combined.3 The offices of h ­ uman rights organ­izations throughout the region have been ransacked and, in some cases, burned to the ground. Most governments fail to investigate attacks against ­human rights defenders adequately, and very few p ­ eople are prosecuted for t­ hese crimes. UP CLOSE: ACTIVISTS AT RISK “Defending h ­ uman rights has notoriously been—­a nd remains—an extremely dangerous activity in the Amer­i­cas. The Inter-­A merican Commission on ­Human Rights continues to observe . . . ​an increase in vio­lence, threats, and intimidation against ­human rights defenders, the deterioration of the general situation of security in which they operate, and the in­effec­tive­ness of protection mea­sures. . . . “Civil society organ­izations have informed the Commission, for instance, that in 2016, three out of ­every four recorded murders of ­human rights defenders worldwide took place in the Amer­i­cas; and ­were mostly concentrated in Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, and Nicaragua. . . . “In 2016, an increasing number of murders of h ­ uman rights defenders took place in the context of the defense of land rights and the opposition to ‘mega proj­ects’—­especially ­those developed by mining

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companies—­a nd their work denouncing the negative impacts of ­t hese mining activities. In this regard, Global Witness reported that in 2016, ‘at least 200 land and environmental defenders ­were murdered—­the deadliest year on rec­ord.’ . . . “The groups that have been identified as being more vulnerable to risk are t­ hose working in the defense of the environment, land rights, and indigenous ­peoples’ rights. . . . ​The Commission has observed that ­women h ­ uman rights defenders, both from rural or urban areas, face significant levels of vio­lence, especially ­those who work on issues of sexual vio­lence, as well as on sexual and reproductive rights. . . . ​The Commission also observes that attacks against defenders working on the promotion and defense of sexual orientation and gender identity rights are escalating. . . . “The Commission has called attention to the excessive, and unwarranted use of criminal law against ­human rights defenders and participants of peaceful social protest movements, in the form of presumably unfounded criminal proceedings, arbitrary arrests, and prolonged use of pretrial detention. In half of the cases of criminalization reported, the defender was an indigenous leader.” Source: Excerpt from the Inter-­American Commission on ­Human Rights Report, “­ Towards Effective Integral Protection Policies for ­ Human Rights Defenders,” 29 December  2017. www​.­oas​.­org​/­en​/­iachr​/­reports​ /­pdfs​/­Defensores​-­eng​-­2017​.­pdf.

Despite the ongoing risks, the number of ­human rights organ­izations in the region has grown in recent de­cades. In 2007, the number of h ­ uman rights NGOs in Latin Amer­i­ca more than doubled what it had been in 1993, and the number has continued to grow. This growth in activism may seem surprising, since the overall level of h ­ uman rights abuses declined significantly in many countries during the same period. Yet the rise in ­human rights advocacy may reflect a confluence of mutually reinforcing ­factors, which has emboldened h ­ uman rights groups and enhanced their capacity to act in concert: a region-­wide wave of democ­ratization, giving ­human rights groups greater opportunities to or­ga­nize; global changes in technology, including access to the Internet, which have permitted the region’s activists to forge more extensive transnational alliances; and the growing prominence of international ­human rights norms worldwide, which has


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legitimated the strug­gle of t­hese groups and empowered them to mobilize. But while the conditions permitting ­human rights organ­izations to exist have improved dramatically, t­oday’s activists remain one of the primary targets of abuse.

Relatives of the Detained, Dis­appeared, or Dead ­ uman rights victims leave b­ ehind families. Perhaps not surprisingly, some H of the strongest h ­ uman rights organ­izations in the region have consisted of relatives of ­those clandestinely detained or dis­appeared. And with the practice of forced disappearances having originated in Latin Amer­i­ca in the 1960s, it is only fitting that some of the world’s strongest associations of “relatives of the dis­appeared” are in Latin Amer­i­ca. Th ­ ese organ­izations have taken vari­ous forms, including groups of m ­ others, grand­mothers, and relatives-­at-­large. The Madres and Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo in Argentina relied on protests to pressure the military regime and on ge­ne­tic science to identify their grandchildren who had been kidnapped during the dirty war. Broader organ­izations of relatives also formed in more than a dozen countries. It is not unusual for relatives to have spent more than thirty years searching for their loved ones, without proper investigations into their cases, bodies to bury, or answers to their most basic questions. So many organ­izations of relatives formed that in 1981, groups in fourteen countries joined forces and created the Latin American Federation of Associations for Relatives of the Detained-­Disappeared (FEDEFAM). This federation played a crucial international role in bringing to light the prob­lem of disappearances. As early as 1983, FEDEFAM presented a draft for an international treaty on disappearances. The Inter-­A merican Convention on Forced Disappearance of Persons was ­adopted in 1994, but it took another twelve years for the international community to follow suit with the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. Latin American NGOs and states ­were key to ­these developments; one-­fifth of the original signatories to this international convention ­were Latin American countries. Without the efforts of local associations of relatives of the detained-­disappeared in Latin Amer­i­ca, similar groups in other parts of the world (for example, the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances) might not have formed, and an impor­tant international h ­ uman rights treaty might never have come to pass.

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Relatives of ­human rights victims are often targeted for stirring up the past. The ­sister of Manfredo Velásquez Rodríguez, who was dis­appeared in Honduras and whose case made its way to the Inter-­A merican Court of ­Human Rights, helped form the Committee of Relatives of the Detained-­ Disappeared in 1982. A few years l­ater, she had to leave Honduras ­a fter receiving multiple death threats for her attempts to pursue justice. Between 1998 and 2000, while Pinochet was being held in London, the Association of Relatives of the Detained-­Disappeared in Chile received multiple death threats. The association of relatives in Colombia also has been subjected to repeated death threats, intimidation, and disappearances of members.4 Forced disappearances are less common in the region t­ oday, but relatives still or­ga­nize to fight when their loved ones are killed with impunity, even if ­those ­doing the killing are abusive police, criminal organ­izations, or regular citizens. In Mexico, organ­izations of relatives of the young w ­ omen dis­appeared in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico (such as Nuestras Hijas de Regreso a Casa/ Our D ­ aughters Return Home), have had their offices broken

FIGURE 19. The leaders of the iconic Madres de Plaza de Mayo ­human rights organ­ ization in Argentina, which protested the disappearance of their ­children during the height of the dirty war and ­a fter it ­under democracy. Juan Mabromata/AFP via Getty Images.


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into, and members have been physically intimidated. Miriam Elizabeth Rodríguez Martínez became a tireless activist a­ fter the disappearance of her d ­ aughter in 2012; in 2017, she herself was murdered. And t­hose whose loved ones are unjustly imprisoned fight for better conditions and their ultimate release. In Cuba, the Ladies in White are routinely harassed and subjected to “acts of repudiation” for their advocacy on behalf of po­ liti­cal prisoners. Perhaps no one is better positioned to demand an end to ­human rights abuses than the relatives of ­those imprisoned and killed. Their grief propels them in the face of ongoing dangers, even as many of them become targets of abuse. Th ­ ese local activists have been driving forces across the region, exposing h ­ uman rights violations and defiantly demanding change.

Religious Groups ­ eople often assume that religious groups have an ethical obligation to deP nounce ­human rights violations. Indeed, in many cases, religious groups have been among the region’s most courageous ­human rights defenders. At the same time, religious groups—­like any group—­can be quite diverse; and, in practice, the role of religious organ­izations vis-­à-­vis h ­ uman rights violations has varied enormously. The real­ity is that some religious figures have been implicated in ­actual violations. And not all church officials in Latin Amer­i­ca have challenged abusive national governments, let alone become stark defenders of h ­ uman rights. Many religious figures and associations are of course inspirational. The story of ­human rights change in Latin Amer­i­ca includes groups like Chile’s Vicaría de la Solidaridad, El Salvador’s Tutela ­L egal, Argentina’s Servicio Paz y Justicia (a Christian ecumenical group), and the international World Council of Churches. Th ­ ese organ­izations, among o­ thers, became widely known for their credible h ­ uman rights reporting and their assistance to victims. Individually, p ­ eople like newspaper editor Jacobo Timerman chronicled their captivity. In his classic ­human rights testimony Prisoner Without a Name, Cell Without a Number, Timerman included the abuses he suffered for being Jewish in Argentina. The murder of El Salvador’s Archbishop Oscar Romero at the pulpit in 1980 is an iconic image of a religious figure standing up to a repressive state and suffering retribution. Even in countries where religious groups did not oppose the regime’s h ­ uman rights violations, individual members

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still risked their lives, sheltering po­liti­cal opponents and assisting relatives of victims. Hundreds if not thousands of members of religious groups ­were killed in more than a dozen of the region’s countries for supporting h ­ uman rights ­causes. The participation of religious groups in protests was impor­tant in part ­because they deployed language and an ethical framework that the public understood and shared. Often, they have stood up to right-­wing regimes that claimed to be defending Christian values. Whereas such regimes would unleash vio­lence upon left-­wing activists, they often hesitated to openly repress priests, nuns, and ­people carry­ing signs with slogans such as “Thou shalt not kill!” Such individuals w ­ ere more likely to be perceived as trustworthy and ethical by the public, making them less vulnerable targets for authoritarian regimes. While this allowed religious groups to come to the fore as vocal advocates for h ­ uman rights, it did not save them from clandestine repression. Church leaders and members are among ­those dis­appeared, tortured, and executed by repressive governments in the region. Within the higher echelons of the Catholic Church—­historically, the most impor­tant religious actor in a region that is still home to the world’s largest Catholic population—­responses to h ­ uman rights violations have varied enormously. Chile and Argentina, despite being neighboring countries and in many ways similar, differed dramatically during the height of repression in the 1970s: The Catholic Church in Chile was an active force for h ­ uman rights change (as it was in nearby Paraguay), while in Argentina the church hierarchy was often ­silent, and, ­under the worst of circumstances, it was a collaborator with the regime. No better illustration of this exists than the case of Christian von Wernich, a Catholic priest and chaplain of the Buenos Aires police, who was put on trial in 2007 for kidnapping and torture (including the highly publicized case of journalist Jacobo Timerman). In Brazil, the role of the church shifted over time, from tacit conspirator to a major advocate of reform. The reasons for ­these variations are complex, reflecting the preferences of individual religious leaders, the long-­standing history of church-­state relations, and the po­liti­cal pressures that even members of the clergy face when confronted with rights violations. It is also impor­tant to remember that much of the everyday work of providing vital support and comfort to p ­ eople suffering from the vagaries of poverty, abuse, and displacement is done by churches and charitable


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religious organ­izations. While exclusionary ideologies contribute to ­human rights abuse, for many, religion provides an inclusive ideology that leads them to treat fellow h ­ uman beings with compassion and generosity, regardless of w ­ hether they frame their concerns in the language of rights.

Other Domestic Nongovernmental Allies While relatives of the dis­appeared and religious leaders bring personal and ethical commitments, respectively, to the work of h ­ uman rights, they often need other partners. As seen in the case-­study chapters, this might include forensic scientists who can use their expertise to provide evidence of ­human rights crimes and to return remains to ­family members. It very often includes l­awyers who can file complaints, locate witnesses, and pursue ­trials. And, of course, nongovernmental groups must find donors. Larger organ­izations are likely to reach out to grant-­making organ­izations such as the Ford Foundation, based in the United States, while smaller groups strug­ gle to string together individual contributions to keep their doors open. Domestic NGOs and activists must work to build co­a li­tions with one another and with like-­minded allies. In Argentina, for example, it took alliances between “traditional” h ­ uman rights organ­izations like the M ­ others of the Plaza de Mayo and feminist organ­izations and LGBTQ activists (among o­ thers) to bring questions like gay marriage into the mainstream. Linkages among t­ hese groups allowed sexual orientation and gender identity to become connected in the minds of the public to broader frameworks of freedom and h ­ uman rights, lending them familiarity and legitimacy in the eyes of the public. Social mobilization requires multiple groups to join forces in protests, petition drives, and other actions to generate pressure for reform. Sometimes the role of domestic allies is less direct. Consider the role of artists. Re­sis­tance to h ­ uman rights abuses often takes the form of art—­ poetry, ­music, tapestry weaving, dancing, photography, or theater. Art has intersected with h ­ uman rights violations throughout Latin Amer­i­ca in numerous ways. Dictatorships often targeted artists, detaining or disappearing them, while artistic work inspired ­people even at the height of repression. Among the most famous cases of a targeted artist is Victor Jara, a popu­lar folk singer in Chile who was tortured and killed in the days following the 1973 coup. Witnesses say he sang his protest songs u ­ ntil the end, and the stadium where he was detained now carries his name. Pablo Ner-

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uda’s poems, which earned him the Nobel Prize in Lit­er­a­ture in 1971, ­were burned by the Chilean dictatorship but still move generations ­today. From the Bolivian highlands to Brazil’s favelas to the Salvadoran jungle, artists have composed and performed ­music criticizing ­human rights abuses, often inspired by indigenous traditions. In Chile, ­women whose partners had dis­appeared sewed colorful tapestries by hand, chronicling their loss and hope for the f­ uture. ­These arpilleras ­were taken around the world and became power­ful symbols of h ­ uman rights re­sis­tance. And in El Salvador, an armed group of folk musicians known as Torogoces (“songbirds”) accompanied leftist insurgents on their missions and mobilized ­people with their songs on a clandestine radio station. More recently, one of Mexico’s biggest rock bands (Jaguares) teamed up with Amnesty International to release a Spanish version of John Lennon’s “Gimme Some Truth” and held benefit concerts to draw attention to the killings in Ciudad Juárez. On the streets of Colombia and Haiti, young ­people use hip hop as social re­sis­tance, while other hip-­hop artists are fighting ­human trafficking in Brazil through their art. Likewise, street theater across the region regularly commemorates poignant scenes of abuse. ­Music has also inspired foreign artists, who in turn have spread awareness of Latin American rights violations to a global audience. Sting’s “They Dance Alone” was motivated by a scene he witnessed: w ­ omen dancing the cueca (Chile’s national dance) alone, while carry­ing photos of their dis­ appeared partners. Chile’s National Stadium, where hundreds of ­people ­were held immediately following the 1973 coup, has become a site for commemorating h ­ uman rights: A high-­profile Amnesty International concert was held ­there in 1989; and, in early 2005, Chilean president-­elect Bachelet presented U2 with a ­human rights award in the stadium. Blaring ­music was used to cover the terrorizing screams of ­people being tortured at detention centers, but ­music and art have also been used as weapons of hope and re­sis­tance. Journalists play a direct role in uncovering and reporting the truth. When journalists decide to investigate rights violations or to cover the work of h ­ uman rights defenders, they become part of the broader campaign. Nongovernmental organ­izations write reports to send not only to governments and intergovernmental organ­izations with leverage but also to the media. And when the media disseminates t­hose findings to the public, opinions are sometimes changed and pressure mounts for the state to respond.


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Activists and journalists both play a crucial role in “framing” ­human rights issues. Framing is about choosing a rhetorical strategy in order to help an audience make sense of and become mobilized around the issue portrayed. For example, activists and journalists in the Brazilian rainforest might have to choose ­whether to portray the issue of deforestation as a threat to the environment, to indigenous ­people, to ­those whose livelihoods depend on the rainforest, or to national security (among other possibilities). The way they frame the issue ­will have impor­tant consequences for how their audience connects and responds to it. Often, activists and journalists rely on a mix of informational, personal, and motivational frameworks in covering ­human rights issues. While informational frameworks emphasize context, background, statistics, and “the big picture,” personal frameworks foreground the story of a single victim. Often, a well-­crafted story about a single victim allows an audience to connect more powerfully with an issue than do statistics or general histories. Motivational frameworks portray how action has generated change, and can therefore encourage ­others to follow suit. It helps that Latin Amer­i­ca enjoys greater freedom of the press than most other regions of the world, with the key exceptions being the nondemo­ cratic states of Venezuela and Cuba. Yet journalists take enormous risks anywhere they cover corruption, drug trafficking organ­izations, h ­ uman rights abusers in the military, and so on. In Mexico, where vio­lence has skyrocketed since the declaration of its “war on drugs” in 2013, more than twenty journalists have been killed and many more have received death threats. Newspaper and tele­vi­sion news offices are easy targets for ­those who do not like what journalists are reporting; and evacuations ­after threats of bombings and other attacks are routine. Sometimes the bombs are real.

Activist Tools: Technology and Media Just as ­human rights abuses rely on technologies of terror—­from firearms to electroshock weapons—­activists have used technology to their advantage. It began with fax machines, which bombarded government offices with letters demanding the release of a po­liti­cal prisoner or an improvement in ­human rights conditions. In the post-1990 Internet age, h ­ uman rights activists turned to online resources and social media platforms to broadcast their messages to a global audience, enroll in distance-­learning courses, and draw on other­wise inaccessible data and documents. Th ­ ese

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developments ­were only the beginning of the technology revolution for ­human rights. The use of digital technology and social media by h ­ uman rights activists ­today has expanded rapidly. Text-­messaging has become an especially popu­lar way of mobilizing ­human rights pressure quickly, while online video blogs and cell-­phone cameras can rec­ord and disseminate images of vio­lence to a broad audience. Geospatial technologies like GPS, which employ satellites to pinpoint the location of h ­ uman rights violations, have been used to map internal displacements and environmental damage in the Andes. Local groups and their transnational allies, in turn, can incorporate this evidence into l­egal proceedings against abusive powers. NGOs are also employing open-­source software (­free and accessible software) to collect and protect ­human rights information. Activists in Colombia and Guatemala, for example, have used such software to store sensitive h ­ uman rights data. With NGOs in t­ hese countries compiling evidence of past violations that can be used in l­egal cases, activists’ computers are being stolen to remove confidential information. Using special open-­source software allows NGOs to encrypt their data so that in the event of a theft or break-in, only they can retrieve their material off a secure server. Likewise, new software is being used to input and analyze large volumes of h ­ uman rights data statistically, an invaluable tool for truth commissions and local NGOs. In Peru, sophisticated information management systems assisted that country’s truth commission by creating a massive database of past violations. The result was a much more reliable estimate of the number of abuses, one much higher than initially thought. Similarly innovative work is being done in Colombia to document as accurately as pos­si­ble the number of ­people killed and dis­appeared in that country’s armed conflict and to facilitate the settlement of displaced ­peoples. As Chapter 8 demonstrated, the collection and analy­sis of data plays a central role in efforts to promote ESC rights as well. More traditional forms of technology, including video, have equally dramatic effects on h ­ uman rights work. Across Latin Amer­i­ca, p ­ eople are being armed with cameras to rec­ord existing abuses. WITNESS, a New York-­based organ­ization, has been at the forefront of ­these efforts, empowering local p ­ eople to produce h ­ uman rights videos that it then distributes. For instance, in Paraguay, WITNESS participated in preparing a documentary on ­mental disability rights, ­until then a largely invisible


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issue. Zeroing in graphically on the plight of two ­brothers in a psychiatric hospital, the film showed the inhumane, prisonlike conditions in which almost 500 patients ­were kept. The video was presented to the Inter-­ American Commission on H ­ uman Rights and to high-­level government officials, leading eventually to improved hospital conditions and region-­ wide attention to ­mental disability rights. Film has always been a power­ful medium, and now it is also a tool of rights empowerment. Technology can itself be a double-­edged sword. Social media and text messaging help to mobilize ­human rights pressure, but they are also used to send death threats to h ­ uman rights activists. And some governments control access to and use of technology. Cuba has long restricted access to the Internet and other media, punishing t­ hose who are critical of the government in blogs or who attempt to make media or technology available to the public. Above all, they have refused to implement modern technological infrastructure, thereby dramatically limiting access to the Internet. ­Under Presidents Chávez and Maduro, Venezuela joined the ranks of “digital authoritarianism,” scoring only slightly better than Rus­sia and Turkey for Internet freedom. China, which has mastered the art of censoring the Internet and turning it into a tool to surveil the public, has

FIGURE 20. Journalists in Mexico City bravely protest in June 2017 the systematic disappearance of journalists in the country. Pedro Pardo/AFP via Getty Images.

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successfully exported its model to Venezuela, which has purchased surveillance and facial recognition software from China and sent officials to China to participate in seminars on “information management.”5 In Cuba and Venezuela, vague legislation criminalizing the promotion of “hatred” or “anti-­social be­hav­ior” allows the regime to intimidate and imprison online opponents. Restrictions aside, technology w ­ ill continue to change how ­human rights strug­gles are waged. Technologies now expose local ­human rights concerns globally; help to disseminate and protect sensitive information; and, in some cases, improve ­human rights conditions. At the same time, when the dominant culture equates social media with the full truth, ­human rights issues that are not prominent in social media can fall off the radar. Which stories get the most hits can also be problematic, since unequal access to technology can itself reflect h ­ uman rights imbalances. We need to be vigilant against technology being used in ways that, however well intentioned, perpetuate patterns of abuse and marginalization. The power of digital technology therefore interacts closely with the current state of freedom of speech, press, and thought in a society.

International NGOs Local activists have often found critical allies in international NGOs. Not technically beholden to governments, they can be credible brokers on behalf of h ­ uman rights victims. In contrast, intergovernmental organ­izations like the United Nations are often ­limited by their ties to states. International NGOs rely on a complex blend of information and moral suasion (persuasion based on ethics); they also turn to creative grassroots campaigns like letter writing or social media efforts to mobilize support. Local activists in repressive states may use similar strategies, but they are ultimately constrained by the coercive environments in which they operate. In general, international h ­ uman rights NGOs serve as bridges between local activists in repressive states and the world at large. When the external target is a demo­cratic country, international NGOs can amplify the voice of domestic NGOs, bring local issues to a global audience, and pressure more power­ful states and institutions to act. Since 1961, when Amnesty International was founded by a dedicated British l­ awyer, it has played an essential role in promoting h ­ uman rights around the world. Its role in Latin Amer­i­ca has been especially strong,


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leading transnational campaigns against nearly ­every repressive state in the region. During the Cold War, when some international NGOs clearly took sides, Amnesty was careful to apply ­human rights pressure against both left-­and right-­wing regimes and to denounce state and non-­state actors committing abuses. This even-­handed activism won the organ­ ization the Nobel Peace Prize in 1977, further enhancing its global image and power. Amnesty has led fact-­finding missions, issued reports (including its highly regarded annual reports), assisted h ­ uman rights victims, and applied direct pressure on governments. While Amnesty is subject to criticism, it is difficult to understand h ­ uman rights reforms across the region without taking into account this organ­ization’s power­ful role. ­Today its agenda has expanded beyond its traditional concerns of the death penalty, po­liti­cal imprisonment, and physical integrity rights violations to encompass arms control, climate change, corporate accountability, and sexual and reproductive rights, to name a few. Other international ­human rights NGOs have also been very influential in the region. For example, H ­ uman Rights Watch—­the largest international h ­ uman rights NGO headquartered in the United States—­has published reports on vari­ous ­human rights topics in the Amer­i­cas since the early 1980s, including prison conditions, ­women’s rights, and the role of paramilitary groups. It has also been very active in providing l­egal assistance to ­human rights victims appearing before regional ­human rights bodies. H ­ uman Rights First (originally called the L ­ awyers Committee for ­Human Rights) has relied mostly on ­legal strategies to promote change. In Latin Amer­i­ca, it was the first group permitted to conduct a fact-­finding mission to Chile ­under Pinochet in the 1970s. Well known for its neutrality, ­Human Rights First has been particularly active in working for the release of po­liti­cal prisoners and, more recently, advocating for asylum seekers. The Washington Office on Latin Amer­i­ca (WOLA) has played a historically significant role. Founded in the early 1970s by members of civil society groups and religious organ­izations, WOLA has worked to promote ­human rights, democracy, and socioeconomic justice in the region. Even a select list of its accomplishments spans numerous issues: WOLA sponsored the first U.S. del­e­ga­tions to monitor elections in the region, helped draft U.S. legislation critical for applying ­human rights pressure, criticized the U.S. anti-­drug war and its implications for ­human rights, and made impor­tant inroads concerning femicide in Ciudad Juárez and gang vio­lence

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in Central Amer­i­ca. Given its regional focus, WOLA has been especially well situated to shaping U.S. ­human rights policy ­toward Latin Amer­i­ca. Other international NGOs work on par­tic­u ­lar h ­ uman rights issues, such as the rule of law in Latin Amer­i­ca. The highly regarded International Commission of Jurists, composed of renowned jurists from around the world and a ­legal staff stationed in Geneva, is one such organ­ization. For de­cades, it has promoted the rule of law and the integrity of the judiciary in the region and beyond; founded in the early 1950s, it is one of the oldest international ­human rights NGOs in the world. Like other international NGOs, it has conducted fact-­finding missions, issued reports, sponsored training courses, and applied direct pressure on governments. It has also tapped into its network of affiliated commissions, led in Latin Amer­ic­a by the influential and respected Andean Commission of Jurists (Comisión Andina de Juristas, CAJ). Both the International and the Andean Commissions of Jurists focus on developing international and regional h ­ uman rights standards and promoting their subsequent implementation by states. Other major organ­izations work on humanitarian concerns (e.g., CARE), c­ hildren’s rights (e.g., Save the C ­ hildren), health (e.g., Physicians for H ­ uman Rights), and torture victims (e.g., World Organ­ization Against Torture). Still other international NGOs are actually co­a li­tions of ­human rights organ­izations, such as the International Federation for ­Human Rights, which has been quite active in Latin Amer­i­ca. International ­human rights NGOs are, of course, imperfect, and they are most effective when they ally with other groups in civil society. Like all organ­izations, international NGOs face challenges, including adapting their mandates to changing circumstances, securing financial autonomy, and debating the utility of dif­fer­ent strategies while avoiding unproductive infighting. But the major international h ­ uman rights NGOs do not operate in isolation; indeed, they work alongside hundreds of lesser-­ known organ­izations. Many of t­ hese civil society actors meet regularly at international conferences, where they develop crucial contacts and advance ­human rights campaigns. NGOs based in Latin Amer­i­ca, moreover, hold frequent regional conferences, in addition to convening as a group before major global h ­ uman rights conferences to stake out regional platforms. ­These forums provide essential opportunities for networking among activists in the region, allowing them to mobilize broad support and pool scarce resources. International h ­ uman rights NGOs are most


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successful when they work closely with domestic activist allies in the countries they wish to influence.

Domestic Allies in Government When most governments in Latin Amer­i­ca ­were authoritarian, domestic activists ­were unable to find allies within their own governments. U ­ nder ­those conditions, networking with international partners was often the only choice. But since the regional shift to democracy, domestic activists have much more access to the state and more ave­nues to push for change. They may find individual legislators, mayors, or other politicians who share their ethical commitment to h ­ uman rights, gaining allies who are willing to promote new laws or push for more rigorous implementation of existing laws. Many former activists end up r­ unning for office themselves, and they keep their doors open to their old colleagues from the activist world. Transitions to democracy ­were often followed by new constitutions enshrining an extensive list of citizens’ rights, provisions that have been impor­tant devices for activists to advance rights claims in courts. New democracies in the region also embraced a slew of international laws originating in the inter-­A merican and UN systems. Beyond new laws and commitments, however, it often took a change in personnel in the criminal justice system, including constitutional courts, before t­ hose laws could be meaningfully applied. This often took many years before appointees from the authoritarian era stepped down and new judges replaced them. Attorneys general, in par­tic­u­lar, have been driving initiatives against corruption, prioritizing femicide cases, and pushing transitional justice in places like Mexico, Guatemala, and Colombia. In other cases, brand-­new institutions ­were created to ensure ­human rights are being promoted from within government. National h ­ uman rights institutions have been created in ­every country in Latin Amer­i­ca over the past thirty-­five years, mostly through new constitutions. Though more than a hundred countries around the world have such institutions, Latin Amer­i­ca has the greatest concentration of national ­human rights institutions. Often referred to as Defensorías del Pueblo (or ­Human Rights Ombudsman Offices), ­these quasi-­governmental institutions are designed to be in­de­pen­dent from the state so that they can act in a watchdog capacity. Their mandates vary from country to country, but typically they include hearing complaints

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from citizens, carry­ing out investigations, participating in court cases, proposing new legislation, advocating for better social ser­vices, and educating ­people about their rights.6 Defensorías across the region increasingly focus on social and economic rights, discrimination, and vio­lence against w ­ omen. Note that the websites of relevant Defensorías appear at the end of several case-­study chapters in this book, reflecting the fact that they are impor­tant clearing­houses of information for h ­ uman rights at the national level. ­These offices have proven to be crucial allies to domestic activists and survivors of abuse in recent years. State institutions, including the judiciary and police, are also essential for understanding the success of ­human rights defenders and the prospects for reform. Recognizing this, international actors (including foreign governments and the United Nations) have assisted Latin American countries with both financial and technical assistance. The results have been mixed. Judicial reform, for example, has been most extensive in Chile. While some may attribute this to Chile’s historically strong commitment to the rule of law, po­liti­cal leadership has also played a pivotal role, providing resources for institutional change and promoting progressive reforms. The case of Venezuela in turn reveals how, despite an early outpouring of resources, judicial reform is impossible in the absence of po­liti­cal commitment and can quickly be reversed. In many cases, judicial reform must move beyond the ad hoc commitment of individual judges to more enduring forms of institutionalization.7 Setbacks aside, such reform is an integral aspect of h ­ uman rights protection. An in­ de­pen­dent judiciary that earns the public’s confidence is crucial for h ­ uman rights accountability. Police reform, also intertwined closely with the defense of ­human rights, has followed a similar trajectory. Impor­tant steps have been taken to retrain law enforcement agencies that ­were previously taught to repress and punish po­liti­cal opponents. This has included equipping police forces with new skills that emphasize the investigatory aspects of their work. Yet, despite unpre­ce­dented attention to reform, police vio­ lence remains high in Brazil, Central Amer­i­ca, and the Ca­rib­bean. High levels of crime—­including trafficking in drugs, p ­ eople, and arms—­led private business ­owners and ­others to call for a tough approach to crime (mano dura). Many politicians respond by approving or at least ignoring police vio­lence and militarization, especially against marginalized groups.


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Poor or indigenous ­peoples provide con­ve­nient scapegoats for politicians and police forces ­eager to meet public demands for crime control. The region, of course, is not unique in this regard. Reform of state institutions is a basic challenge confronting post-­conflict, demo­cratizing socie­ties around the world. For h ­ uman rights defenders, h ­ uman rights education offers a related and basic strategy for promoting long-­term reform. It consists of incorporating ­human rights into school curricula, training government workers and o­ thers in ­human rights standards, and disseminating information about ­human rights princi­ples through public and media campaigns. The goal is to socialize ­people into accepting h ­ uman rights norms, replacing exclusionary ideologies with ­human rights ideas. While ­human rights education is not a panacea or a s­ imple solution that can be applied on its own to yield dramatic results, it may be vital for combating discrimination and abuse. National governments and regional actors, assisted by international partners, have promoted h ­ uman rights education throughout the region. The language of h ­ uman rights is now familiar and widely a­ dopted across Latin American socie­ties. If the composition of governments ­matters for understanding ­human rights (including their ideological orientation or electoral base of support), then recent shifts in the po­liti­cal landscape in Latin Amer­i­ca may be consequential. A dramatic shift to the po­liti­cal left occurred across Latin Amer­i­ca in the first de­cade of the twentieth ­century, often referred to as “the pink tide,” revealing p ­ eople’s discontent with basic living conditions, including endemic poverty, corruption, and rising militarization. The election of presidents with socialist credentials, for example, marked a par­tic­u­lar electoral turn, especially in South Amer­i­ca—­A rgentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ec­ua­dor, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela. It was the first time that so many presidents from the po­liti­cal left held power across the region. Many of t­ hese governments emphasized economic and social rights and embraced the rights of w ­ omen, indigenous groups, and LGBTQ citizens. This new line of leaders often rejected the “Washington Consensus,” dominant in international economic relations since the 1980s. The consensus refers to the set of market-­driven, free-­trade policies that international financial institutions and the United States have often promoted. Critics assert that t­ hese policies have hurt the poor disproportionately even if in some areas they have spurred national economic growth.

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The per­for­mance and lasting impact of t­ hese efforts was at best mixed. While Venezuela was the most extreme case of failure, most ­others ­were more eco­nom­ically pragmatic and moderate than initially expected—­and more demo­cratic. Nevertheless, many w ­ ere plagued by frequent corruption scandals, as we saw in Brazil and Peru. The pink tide came to an end by 2015. As a region-­wide recession compounded the public’s disillusionment, the conservative governments that then took power across much of the region generally did not reverse ­human rights gains made during the pink tide, with the exception of the Bolsonaro government in Brazil, but ­were more committed to neoliberalism and quieter in response to the grievances of ­women, indigenous, LGBTQ, and Afro-­descendant citizens. A populist theme has featured prominently in ­these developments. As ­people have tired of de­cades of elite rule, national leaders have ­adopted the discourse of revolution and radical transformation—on both the left (Venezuela, Ec­ua­dor, Bolivia) and the right (Brazil). Latin American politics in the new millennium have emphasized a break from the past, from “business as usual” to a new era of reform. To this end, some of the leaders can be characterized as populist, or committed to responding to the popu­lar ­will. Skeptics express concern that, despite the loftiness of some of their goals, populist leaders could undermine demo­cratic stability. Historically, a­ fter all, pop­u­lism has often led to a high concentration of power in the hands of the executive to the detriment of legislative and judicial authority. Just as po­liti­cal parties in established democracies wax and wane in influence, Latin Amer­i­ca’s trends may be temporary. What­ever the po­liti­cal party or whoever the president in power, crafting a more fully rights-­ protective regime requires the po­liti­cal w ­ ill to reform state institutions more effectively. Elections are insufficient on their own. Without a stable rule-­of-­law system, including an in­de­pen­dent judiciary, a climate of impunity is likely to persist. Similarly, institutions like the police need to desist from responding to vio­lence with vio­lence. The challenges associated with demo­cratic and ­human rights reform signal the importance of comprehensive policies: reforming state institutions requires addressing the systemic sources of social vio­lence and corruption that are deeply implicated in a country’s po­liti­cal economy. Put differently, po­liti­cal leaders need to confront the complex origins of domestic instability. Only then w ­ ill the region’s democracies be more equitable and sustainable. Democracy has brought enormous pro­gress, but, from a h ­ uman rights perspective, the


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per­sis­tent exclusion and abuse of marginalized groups is unacceptable. While dramatic changes have occurred, too much remains the same.

Foreign State Pressure If h ­ uman rights pressure frequently rises from the bottom up, reflecting grassroots aspirations and mobilization, it also often depends on external pressures from foreign governments. Foreign governments have an impor­ tant role to play, given their vast resources and potential leverage over broader economic and military relations. The more dependent a state violator is on a foreign government, the greater the potential influence. Presumably, a Latin American government ­will care if ­human rights demands are made by the same French government that sells them weapons; by Spain, the former colonial power, now a member of the Eu­ro­pean Union, which supports multinational firms in the region, tourism flows, and cultural exchanges; or by the United States, a global power that dominates the region’s trade and aid. Even if h ­ uman rights pressure by t­ hese foreign governments and their allies is insufficient to ensure substantial reform, it can be deeply consequential. Complementing the work of h ­ uman rights defenders, foreign governments have been influential in advancing ­human rights in Latin Amer­i­ca. In Eu­rope, France, Spain, and other countries have long promoted ­human rights reform. Sweden, for example, has championed the protection of refugees, historically providing shelter to h ­ uman rights victims in its embassies in the region or offering them exile in Sweden. The Netherlands has also been a consistently strong promoter of ­human rights in the region, especially in providing foreign assistance. Multilaterally, the Eu­ro­pean Union has applied a range of h ­ uman rights pressures, from behind-­the-­ scenes “quiet diplomacy” to public condemnations and punitive sanctions in more extreme situations. In the Amer­i­cas, Canada has contributed to regional peace initiatives and facilitated ­human rights institution building. Latin American governments also seek to exert pressure on their counter­parts in the region. Their leaders meet regularly within the context of the Organ­ization of American States (examined in the next chapter), regional trade blocs like Mercosur, and routine state visits. Such meetings are opportunities for states to influence one another, reinforcing the idea that Latin Amer­i­ca is a region of democracy, re­spect for international law, and economic integration. Peer pressure is a real, if difficult-­to-­measure,

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force for ­human rights. And often the response of a country’s immediate neighbors are the ones that ­matter most. To Venezuelans fleeing the collapse of democracy and their economy, the response of Colombia and Brazil to the arrival of millions of mi­grants is a m ­ atter of life and death; similarly, the response of Mexico to Central American mi­grants ­matters a ­great deal. Of course, the United States can be highly influential when it comes to h ­ uman rights in Latin Amer­i­ca. Since the 1970s, the United States has often pressured the region’s countries to improve their ­human rights practices. While U.S. administrations have not applied t­ hese pressures consistently, thereby contributing to the region’s violations, U.S. pressure has nevertheless had positive effects that should not be discounted. Given the historical significance of the United States for Latin Amer­ i­ca, as well as its proximity to the region, it is useful to understand the origins of U.S. h ­ uman rights policies. Beginning in the 1970s, the United States—­like other Western countries—­integrated ­human rights formally into its foreign policy. H ­ uman rights issues w ­ ere gaining ground internationally, following the creation of Amnesty International and the drafting of major ­human rights treaties over the previous de­cade. ­Human rights abuses in neighboring Latin Amer­i­ca (especially Chile and Argentina) took on a sense of urgency thanks to pressure from Latin American activists and their allies in NGOs based in the United States, such as WOLA. Public opinion supported the idea that the United States o­ ught to use its foreign policy to pressure governments to re­spect ­human rights, and that the United States would be morally wrong to support dictators that abused their citizens’ rights.8 Beginning with a set of congressional hearings in 1973 (known as the Fraser Subcommittee), ­human rights issues became institutionalized in the foreign policy apparatus of the United States. From then on, most foreign policy decisions would have to incorporate h ­ uman rights criteria. Several developments ­were critical in this regard, three involving congressional actions and two focused on the executive branch. The Harkin amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act in 1975 made a country’s economic aid contingent on its h ­ uman rights per­for­mance, with crucial implications for Latin Amer­i­ca. Then Section 502B of the Foreign Assistance Act made a country’s military aid dependent on its h ­ uman rights practices. A Bureau of H ­ uman Rights and Humanitarian Affairs (­later renamed the Bureau of Democracy, ­Human Rights, and L ­ abor) was created in the


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State Department and charged with issuing annual reports on h ­ uman rights conditions around the world, which have been issued in a thick volume ­every year since the late 1970s. Together, ­these steps have helped to ensure that institutional incentives exist to apply h ­ uman rights pressure, regardless of the administration in power. This explains why sometimes the United States applies contradictory pressure, with Congress or the State Department promoting ­human rights and other government officials turning a blind eye. Why the United States or any government applies ­human rights pressure in some situations but not in ­others is a complex question. It depends partly on ­whether ­human rights defenders and other constituencies have access to a government, allowing the government to influence policy. The media can also play an essential role, bringing stories and images of abuse to the public, who can then pressure their elected officials. Local f­ actors, like a highly vocal constituency of Cuban-­Americans in Florida, and national ones, like the broader politics around immigration and trade, ­matter greatly. Since the 1970s, Latin Amer­i­ca has been a litmus test for the effectiveness of U.S. ­human rights pressures. Recall that a wave of repression was spreading through the region precisely when h ­ uman rights criteria w ­ ere institutionalized in U.S. foreign policy. One tool the United States has used to pressure governments accused of h ­ uman rights violations is sanctions. While a full economic embargo has been in place against Cuba since 1965, most other countries addressed in this book have been targeted by U.S. sanctions at some point in the past half ­century.9 Some sanctions target individuals in a repressive regime—­freezing assets they hold abroad, blocking them from d ­ oing business abroad, and revoking their travel visas. Other sanctions are aimed at w ­ hole sectors of the economy. The U.S. imposed sanctions against many members of the Maduro administration in Venezuela ­after 2014, and was joined in ­those sanctions by Eu­ro­pean and Latin American countries. However, its imposition of sanctions against the Venezuelan oil industry in 2019 provoked ­great criticism that the sanctions would dramatically worsen the humanitarian crisis inside the country. This has also been the crux of the criticism against the U.S. embargo against Cuba, which has not led to the collapse of the authoritarian regime but has exacerbated poverty on the island. Consequently, e­ very year since 1992, an overwhelming majority of states at the UN General Assembly have condemned the U.S. embargo of Cuba.

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Other forms of pressure at the disposal of the U.S. government include its ability to withhold international loans and grants (through U.S. votes at the International Monetary Fund and World Bank), approve or deny trade deals, and vote on the U.N. Security Council. Determining the success of ­these pressures, however, is not as straightforward as it may seem. One prominent h ­ uman rights scholar has described the history of U.S. ­human rights pressures in Latin Amer­i­ca as a story of “mixed signals,” where the messages and cues sent to the region have more often than not been inconsistent and contradictory.10 It is not surprising, then, that the effectiveness of ­these pressures continues to be debated. Some observers trace ­human rights improvements to U.S. pressures, while ­others maintain that changes would have occurred even without ­these pressures. The truth is most likely somewhere in the m ­ iddle. What we do know is that all ­human rights reforms require local activists who are prepared to demand the equal treatment of ­human beings, ideally with the support of power­ful international allies.

Conclusion To borrow Margaret Mead’s memorable quote, “A small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only t­ hing that ever has.” This is the force that lies b­ ehind h ­ uman rights change: ordinary ­people’s empathy for the way that other ­human beings are treated and their willingness to mobilize for the rights of ­others. The pro­cess of ­human rights reform is both po­liti­cal and visionary. But the ­human rights defenders addressed in this chapter do not act alone, and sometimes their efforts are insufficient to secure justice. Domestic l­egal courts and po­liti­cal institutions often fail to provide ­human rights accountability. Perpetrators go unpunished, victims are not compensated, and the truth remains untold. In situations where ­human rights victims or activists have joined with o­ thers and exhausted both domestic remedies and external pressures, they can still turn to international and regional l­egal forums, which we explore in the next chapter. Discussion Questions 1. What do you find most in­ter­est­ing about local h ­ uman rights activism in Latin Amer­i­ca? Why? 2. What specific role can international h ­ uman rights NGOs play? How do you see their work interacting with technology and social media?


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3. In your view, why does the United States (or any country) apply ­human rights pressure in some situations but not o­ thers? 4. Are transnational allies just as impor­tant in mostly demo­cratic Latin Amer­ i­ca t­oday as they w ­ ere u ­ nder authoritarian regimes of the past? Why or why not?

References Additional Reading John Bailey and Lucia Dammert, eds., Public Security and Police Reform in the Amer­i­cas (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005). Useful overview of police reform efforts across the region. Daniel Brinks, The Judicial Response to Police Killings in Latin Amer­i­ca: In­ equality and the Rule of Law (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007). Novel examination of the connections between the judiciary and police, focusing on Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay. Ann Marie Clark, Diplomacy of Conscience: Amnesty International and Chang­ ing ­Human Rights Norms (Prince­ton, N.J.: Prince­ton University Press, 2001). Study of how the most prominent international h ­ uman rights NGO has ­shaped global norms, focusing on physical integrity rights and drawing extensively on Latin American examples. Stephen Hopgood, Keepers of the Flame: Understanding Amnesty International (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2006). Fascinating and critical look at the leading international ­human rights NGO. Kerry Kennedy Cuomo and Eddie Adams, Speak Truth to Power: ­Human Rights Defenders Who Are Changing Our World (New York: Crown, 2000). Journalistic stories of ­human rights defenders from around the world. Penny Lernoux, Cry of the ­People: The Strug­gle for ­Human Rights in Latin Amer­ i­ca—­The Catholic Church in Conflict with U.S. Policy (New York: Penguin, 1982). Classic, if partisan, view of U.S. policy in the region, especially the role of progressive Catholics vis-­à-­vis ­human rights. Juan A. Mendez and Javier Mariezcurrena, “­Human Rights in Latin Amer­i­ca and the Ca­rib­be­an: A Regional Perspective,” (Notre Dame, Ind.: Center for Civil and ­Human Rights, 2000). A very useful discussion of demo­ cratic h ­ uman rights reforms in the region, as well as ongoing social exclusion, pre-2000. Julie Mertus, Bait and Switch: ­Human Rights and U.S. Foreign Policy, 2nd ed. (New York: Routledge, 2008). Fair but critical look at the role of h ­ uman rights in U.S. foreign policy; winner of the American Po­liti­cal Science Association 2004 Best Book Award in H ­ uman Rights.

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Mitchell A. Seligson, “The Rise of Pop­u­lism and the Left in Latin Amer­i­ca,” Journal of Democracy 18, 3 (July 2007): 81–95. Excellent survey of two key trends in the region. Kathryn Sikkink, Mixed Signals: U.S. ­Human Rights Policy and Latin Amer­ i­ca (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2004). The definitive read on U.S. ­human rights policy t­ oward the region. Sara Snyder, From Selma to Moscow: How H ­ uman Rights Activists Trans­ formed U.S. Foreign Policy (New York: Columbia University Press, 2018). Explains the origins of U.S. h ­ uman rights policy in the 1960s, with one chapter focused on Chile. Jessica Stites Mor, ed. ­Human Rights and Transnational Solidarity in Cold War Latin Amer­i­ca (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2013). Emphasizes the role of domestic activist campaigns and networks of solidarity between activists in the Global South. Claude E. Welch Jr., ed. NGOs and ­Human Rights: Promise and Per­for­mance (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000). Overview of the work and effectiveness of h ­ uman rights NGOs. Timothy P. Wickham-­Crowley and Susan Eva Eckstein, eds., What Justice? Whose Justice? Fighting for Fairness in Latin Amer­i­ca (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003). Collection of case studies examining how social justice in the region is faring u ­ nder democracy. Filmography Feature Film Golpes a mi puerta (Knocks at My Door) (1993). Kidnapping of two Catholic nuns in Latin Amer­i­ca by the military. 106 minutes. Documentaries The City of Photog­raphers (2006). A group of photojournalists who captured life in Chile ­under Pinochet’s regime; art as social re­sis­tance. 80 minutes. Dance of Hope (1989). Documents the challenges faced by relatives of the dis­ appeared; includes footage of international rock concerts held in solidarity. 75 minutes. Favela Rising (2005). Account of how a Brazilian man r­ ose from the slums of Rio to lead a nonviolent cultural/musical movement. 78 minutes. Prohibido (1997). Interviews with artists, theater directors, and journalists showing Argentina’s dirty war from the perspective of the arts. 105 minutes. Resistencia: Hip Hop in Colombia (2003). Rare look at hip hop as social re­sis­ tance in war-­torn Colombia. 53 minutes.


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Threads of Hope (1996) and Scraps of Life (1992). Stories of Chilean ­women sewing arpilleras, mosaic quilts made with scraps of fabric and depicting scenes of po­liti­cal vio­lence. 51 and 28 minutes, respectively. Useful Websites Amnesty International. For up-­to-­date, country-­specific information on ­human rights violations across the world, refer to Amnesty’s annual report. The website is easy to navigate, and it includes special reports and regional topics. www​.­amnesty​.­org. Benetech. U.S.-­based nonprofit com­pany designing “software for social good.” https://­benetech​.­org. Bureau of Democracy, ­Human Rights, and ­Labor. U.S. government agency (part of the State Department), responsible for ­human rights in U.S. foreign policy. www​.­state​.­gov​/­bureaus​-­offices​/­under​-­secretary​-­for​-­civilian​ -­security​- ­democracy​-­a nd​-­human​-­rights​/ ­bureau​- ­of​- ­democracy​-­human​ -­rights​-­and​-­labor. CARE. U.S.-­based organ­ization fighting global poverty. www​.­care​.­org. Front Line Defenders. International NGO based in Ireland and focused on ­human rights defenders. www​.­frontlinedefenders​.­org. Global Witness. International NGO focused on the intersections of environmental rights, natu­ral resources, corruption and ­human rights. www​ .­globalwitness​.­org​/­en. ­Human Rights First. U.S.-­based NGO focused on making the United States “live up to its ideals,” particularly as they intersect with ­human rights of mi­grants from abroad. www​.­humanrightsfirst​.­org. ­Human Rights Watch. The website of this major U.S.-­based NGO is readily accessible, and it includes special reports and regional topics. www​.­hrw​.­org. Inter-­A merican Institute of H ­ uman Rights. An academic body that collaborates with the Inter-­A merican Court of ­Human Rights to offer online courses, a digital library, and more. https://­w ww​.­iidh​.­ed​.­cr/ International Commission of Jurists, www​.­icj​.­org; and regional affiliate Comision Andina de Juristas. www​.­cajpe​.­org​.­pe. Excellent resources for leading l­egal research on impor­tant issues. Latin American Public Opinion Proj­ect (LAPOP). A variety of public opinion polls conducted throughout the region. https://­w ww​.­vanderbilt​.­edu​ /­lapop​/­. Professionals for ­Human Rights (CEPRODH). Argentine center devoted to ­human rights defenders. www​.­ceprodh​.­org​.­ar. Save the C ­ hildren. Century-­old charitable organ­ization founded in the UK and working to assist ­children around the world. www​.­savethechildren​.­org.

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WITNESS. Search the media archive for hundreds of hours of original video from Latin Amer­i­ca (e.g., interviews, testimonies, hearings, exhumations), many of them used in regional h ­ uman rights proceedings. WITNESS is an in­de­pen­dent organ­ization that promotes the use of video to document ­human rights abuses. https://­witness​.­org. Washington Office of Latin Amer­i­ca. One of the most impor­tant organ­izations shaping U.S. h ­ uman rights, democracy, and justice policies ­toward Latin Amer­i­ca since the 1970s. WOLA also produces the informative WOLA Podcast. www​.­wola​.­org. World Organ­ization Against Torture. Swiss-­based NGO focused on torture. www​.­omct​.­org.

10 Regional and Global Governance


egional and global institutions play essential roles in the strug­gle for ­human rights. Together, they act as a global safety net for ­human rights victims, giving them hope that justice ­will be served and violators ­will be held accountable. We cannot fully understand ­human rights in Latin Amer­i­ca without grasping the role of ­these institutions and the global context in which they operate. The global system of h ­ uman rights governance consists of specific international and regional institutions, including ­human rights treaties, commissions, and courts. Th ­ ese institutions create expectations about what constitutes ­human rights and what procedures should be followed when ­these rights are v­ iolated. The United Nations system provides several interlocking mechanisms for upholding h ­ uman rights, so this chapter begins by reviewing the role of UN mechanisms, before turning to the International Criminal Court. Some regions have their own systems of h ­ uman rights governance. Latin Amer­i­ca has some of the most developed region-­wide mechanisms for regulating h ­ uman rights. The inter-­A merican h ­ uman rights system comprises numerous relevant treaties and institutions, including the American Convention on H ­ uman Rights, the Inter-­A merican Commission on ­Human Rights, and the Inter-­A merican Court of ­Human Rights. This chapter reviews ­these key institutions, along with prominent cases brought before Latin Amer­i­ca’s ­human rights bodies. The chapter also situates the inter-­A merican h ­ uman rights system in its broader global con-

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text, comparing the inter-­A merican system with other regional mechanisms in Eu­rope and Africa.

The United Nations The United Nations is not a world government, but it is the foremost international intergovernmental body working to promote and protect ­human rights. As such, it applies ­human rights pressure on recalcitrant states, investigates situations of abuse, and provides concrete assistance to h ­ uman rights victims. This complex organ­ization has vari­ous mechanisms by which it carries out its ­human rights work. First, it has treaty-­and non-­treaty-­based procedures, as detailed below, some of which have played a crucial role in Latin Amer­i­ca. Second, specialized agencies of the United Nations work extensively on the rights of vulnerable groups, including refugees, c­ hildren, and p ­ eople in poverty. Third, UN peacekeeping missions in the region have integrated h ­ uman rights issues into their mandates. In all of t­hese cases, it is crucial to note that the United Nations is only as strong as its individual member states allow it to be. One of the most basic steps a state can take in the l­egal realm internationally with regard to h ­ uman rights is to ratify a treaty. In addition to defining standards, most ­human rights treaties create specific committees and procedures with which state parties must cooperate. For example, states that have ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Po­liti­cal Rights must submit regular reports to the ­Human Rights Committee, which monitors the treaty’s implementation. The treaty also allows for inter-­state complaints. Through this mechanism, one state can submit a complaint against another state alleging h ­ uman rights abuses. The targeted state is then expected to cooperate with the ­Human Rights Committee, which investigates the allegations. Of course, parties to a treaty do not always comply with t­hese requirements. They may fail to submit reports in a timely or an accurate fashion, or they may other­wise refuse to cooperate with the committee. Since international organ­izations tend not to have enforcement powers, UN committees are ­limited in what they can do; but they do condemn state violators and can include their recommendations in public reports. While ­these pressures may seem weak, a large number of international and local actors draw on the work of ­these UN treaty bodies to mobilize even more intense pressure.


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Beyond treaty-­based procedures, the UN h ­ uman rights system has other ave­nues for applying pressure. The Office of the High Commissioner for H ­ uman Rights, created in 1993, often plays a leading role. Its most impor­tant body is the ­Human Rights Council, which replaced the sixty-­ year-­old ­Human Rights Commission in 2006. Victims and their representatives can submit complaints to this body, which considers them confidentially—­under the premise that states are more likely to cooperate if they are not shamed publicly. E ­ very country in the world participates in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), submitting a report on its own ­human rights situation to the ­Human Rights Council ­every four years, then receiving feedback from other states, and reporting back four years ­later on how the country implemented the recommendations. Latin American governments not only receive feedback from countries around the world through the UPR system, but they also use the UPR to pressure other countries to do better. In addition, the council has special procedures at its disposal, including special rapporteurs or working groups established to investigate a par­tic­u­lar country or issue (e.g., disappearances, poverty, mi­grants, torture, vio­lence against ­women). UN representatives can investigate conditions within a country (as long as the government grants it entry), prepare reports, and issue recommendations. The High Commissioner for H ­ uman Rights, the equivalent of the Secretary General in the ­human rights world, can also bring his or her public office to bear on state violators. UN special rapporteurs and working groups on h ­ uman rights have also played a crucial role in Latin Amer­i­ca. In 1980, in response to the magnitude of disappearances during Argentina’s dirty war, the United Nations created a special working group on disappearances. Consisting of five in­ de­pen­dent experts, the group has proven to be a valuable conduit between families of the dis­appeared and national governments around the world; its goal is to find ­those who have dis­appeared (or their remains) but not to establish responsibility. It has initiated tens of thousands of inquiries in the region, in some cases following up with in-­country visits to investigate allegations more fully. While it has succeeded in solving only a relatively small number of disappearances, the working group has been most effective in calling attention to individual cases and challenging specific governments to provide information. The working group has also played a preventive role, advising governments on how to live up to their obligations ­under international law so as to eliminate disappearances. Likewise,

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a special global rapporteur for torture (created in 1985) has been very active in the region, transmitting urgent appeals to governments, visiting countries, and issuing an annual report with recommendations. Unlike most international mechanisms, individuals can approach the rapporteur even if they have not exhausted all domestic ave­nues; and, given the prevalence of torture in so many countries, this translates into a large volume of petitions and a heavy workload. As with all international ­human rights bodies, UN groups can visit countries by invitation only—­state sovereignty permits governments to control who enters their borders and what they do once ­there. This is a basic fact of the international system, producing mixed results. On the one hand, governments can orchestrate visits, sometimes g­ oing as far as to move prisoners or reconstruct entire areas of a detention fa­cil­i­t y. Governments can lie to foreign investigators, or they can refuse altogether to cooperate. On the other hand, the evidence suggests that states generally care about their international reputations; in an interdependent world, ­t here is always a chance that trade or military relations might be linked to h ­ uman rights per­for­mance. Consequently, governments ­will often concede to foreign demands for information and access, even as they try to manage the situation. The outcome may often be disappointing to foreign observers, but occasionally it can lead to significant improvements for the victims of abuse (e.g., a prisoner ­will be released or the conditions of detention improved). Within the context of atrocities, the power of such changes should not be underestimated. Other UN programs and agencies contribute to protecting h ­ uman rights in Latin Amer­i­ca. In par­tic­u­lar, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has been an essential actor. Even at the height of ­human rights violations, the UNHCR often has offices in a country and can assist refugees and internally displaced persons. Indeed, the UNHCR saved thousands of ­people in the region during previous de­cades. T ­ oday, it is especially active in Colombia, which has more internally displaced ­people than anywhere e­ lse in the world (over seven million p ­ eople, or nearly 15 ­percent of the country’s population); the UNHCR has itself seen more than a million Venezuelans cross the border into Colombia since 2015. The UNHCR has more than a dozen field offices in the area providing emergency shelter as well as cash and ­legal assistance, and it is a staunch advocate for the rights of displaced persons. UNICEF, which works on behalf of ­children worldwide, has also had an impor­tant impact in Latin Amer­i­ca:


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educating and protecting c­ hildren against land mines, especially in Central Amer­i­ca and Colombia, vaccinating c­ hildren against preventable diseases, and working to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Likewise, the Pan American Health Organ­ization (the regional arm of the World Health Organ­ization) works at the intersection of health and h ­uman rights, calling attention to numerous issues, including health equity by race and poverty level, stigmas attached to HIV/AIDS patients, vio­lence against ­women, and, of course, the internationally recognized right to health. ­These organ­izations and ­others have broad access to countries in the midst of vio­lence and abuse precisely ­because they are deemed to be largely humanitarian. On the peacekeeping front, the region has seen a relatively small number of missions: a total of eleven since the end of World War II, six of ­these in Haiti. The first UN peacekeeping mission to the region went to the Dominican Republic in the mid-1960s. Other forces ­were stationed in Central Amer­i­ca, helping to ensure regional stability during the 1990s. The recently ended UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) illustrates broader challenges. As described in Chapter 6, that mission, largely composed of Latin American troops, was plagued by controversy and strug­ gled to control criminality or reduce suffering. Despite efforts on behalf of peace and ­human rights, UN peacekeeping forces in Haiti revealed the limits of a military approach, leaving b­ ehind a tragic legacy. The United Nations exercises influence over h ­ uman rights practice within Latin Amer­i­ca, but it is equally true that Latin American governments use UN mechanisms to influence ­others. Latin American governments have, for example, made up crucial voting blocs in support of LGBTQ rights at the United Nations, even in the face of opposition from other regions of the world. Along with Eu­ro­pean countries, Latin American countries almost universally sign and ratify international laws, helping them come into force. More directly, many leadership positions within UN h ­ uman rights mechanisms have been held by individuals from Latin Amer­i­ca. For example, Juan Méndez has twice served as a UN Special Rapporteur on torture, visiting countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin Amer­i­ca to examine their prisons, policies, and practices around the prevention of torture. His reports highlighted improvements, but they also pushed governments like Brazil’s to improve conditions. Méndez was able to draw on a lifetime of

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­ uman rights experience in this work: As a ­lawyer for po­liti­cal prisoners h in Argentina, he himself was subjected to torture. Amnesty International brought attention to his case by making him one of its “Prisoners of Conscience” in 1977, leading Argentina to release and then expel him. He has spent the rest of his life as a h ­ uman rights activist and academic, dividing his time between elite universities and NGOs like ­Human Rights Watch and the International Center for Transitional Justice. Michelle Bachelet too survived torture—in this case, at the hand of the Chilean regime. She l­ ater became the first female president of Chile. At the United Nations, Bachelet was the first head of UN W ­ omen, a body formed in 2010, recognizing that the United Nations needed to centralize its efforts to promote the rights of ­women. In 2018, she became the UN High Commissioner for H ­ uman Rights. In that role, she pressured China to release Muslim Uighurs from detention camps, pushed Saudi Arabia over its intervention in Yemen, and issued a damning report on ­human rights in Venezuela u ­ nder Maduro. Th ­ ere have been eight High Commissioners for ­Human Rights since the Office of the High Commissioner was established in 1993; three of them have been from Latin Amer­ i­ca, including the first High Commissioner, José Ayala Lasso of Ec­ua­dor. Sergio Vieira de Mello of Brazil served as High Commissioner at the end of a long ­career in the United Nations, including time as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. While on assignment in Iraq, de Mello and twenty-­t wo colleagues w ­ ere killed when the UN’s Baghdad headquarters was blown up by insurgents. Latin Americans have left an indelible mark at the United Nations and at the International Criminal Court, as we ­shall see in the next section. Observers of UN h ­ uman rights bodies can grow frustrated and cynical at the apparent weakness of ­t hese institutions, which necessarily rely on diplomacy and must re­spect sovereignty. Yet in a world where states are so power­ful, intergovernmental organ­izations like the United Nations are only as strong as their member states allow them to be. Since states remain major violators of h ­ uman rights in the world, it is not all that surprising that they do not create sufficiently strong institutions to regulate themselves. The key is to remember that UN pressure is only one part of a vast and interconnected transnational network (see Chapter 11), which uses a wide range of tools to pressure abusive states. Still, for h ­ uman rights victims who may feel helpless, UN mechanisms—­like the intervention of a


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special rapporteur or assistance by the UNHCR—­can produce tangible results, if only by raising awareness of h ­ uman rights abuses and demanding answers from state violators.

The International Criminal Court Complementing regional and national courts, the International Criminal Court (ICC) is the most impressive development in international law in the last half ­century and a cornerstone of ­today’s international h ­ uman rights system. The court, which entered into force in 2002, is located in the Hague, Netherlands. More than 120 countries around the world have accepted its jurisdiction. This court has oversight over four types of international crimes: crimes against humanity, war crimes, genocide, and crimes of aggression. Unlike the International Court of Justice (or World Court), which tries states, the ICC prosecutes individuals. The court’s jurisdiction, however, extends only to crimes committed ­a fter a state has accepted the court’s competence; thus, the court does not have jurisdiction over twentieth-­century dictators. Furthermore, the ICC is expected to uphold the highest standards of due pro­cess and fairness in its deliberations. It is designed to be a court of last resort: Only when states are unable or unwilling to prosecute t­ hese crimes themselves can the ICC step in. Twenty-­eight Latin American and Ca­rib­bean states have ratified the Rome Treaty, which created the ICC. ­These states, therefore, have agreed to accept the ICC’s jurisdiction. The only countries in the region that, like the United States, have not accepted the court’s jurisdiction are Cuba and Nicaragua. Moreover, state parties elected Argentinean Luis Moreno Ocampo, a world-­renowned international ­legal expert, as the ICC’s first chief prosecutor, placing him at the forefront of international ­legal developments. UP CLOSE: LUIS MORENO OCAMPO “I had never ­imagined that I would be the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. . . . ​At the time, I thought my biggest professional achievement lay well ­behind me. I could never be involved in a bigger case than the Junta Trial. In 1985, I was deputy prosecutor in the case against three former dictators and six other members of the dif­fer­ent military juntas that ruled Argentina between 1976 and 1982.

R e g ion a l a n d G l ob a l G ov e r n a nc e 257 They ­ were charged for the crimes they ordered during the ‘dirty war.’ . . . ​I had witnessed the impact of the Argentina junta trial and I thought that a similar effect could be achieved at a global level. “But in April 2003, 78 state parties of the Rome Statute granted me the privilege and the responsibility of being the first chief prosecutor of the ICC. My mission was to build the Office of the Prosecutor from scratch to make the Rome Statute’s innovative ­ legal design operational. “It was only in 2003 that I realized that my experience as a national prosecutor dealing with dictators, mass killers, guerrilla leaders, and ­grand corruption was my training to become the ICC prosecutor. The junta trial taught me to collect evidence from the victims without using the police or the state apparatus, a practice that was critical in enabling me to run the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC, which has no police itself and relies exclusively on state cooperation. “I also learned to keep my focus on the evidence and the ­legal work, ignoring the pressures from t­ hose who w ­ ere against the investigation. “Most importantly, I learned the importance of the l­egal architecture to establish a peaceful coexistence, to replace a ‘dirty war’ model based on an e­ nemy paradigm for a justice model where t­here are no enemies to exterminate but rather crimes to prevent and control.” Source: Luis Moreno Ocampo, “The International Criminal Court,” in The Found­ ers: Four Pioneering Individuals Who Launched the First Modern-­Era International Criminal Tribunals, ed. David Crane, Leila Sadat, and Michael Scharf (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018).

In contrast, the United States actively opposed the ICC during the George W. Bush administration (2001–9). The United States instead entered into approximately one hundred bilateral immunity agreements with countries around the world whose governments agreed not to transfer U.S. nationals indicted by the ICC. When pressuring states to sign ­t hese bilateral agreements, the United States threatened to cut off military and economic assistance. At least thirteen countries in Latin Amer­ i­ca signed such agreements with the United States, while another fourteen countries publicly opposed the agreements. The latter group lost millions of dollars of U.S. aid as a result.1 It is striking that about half of the region’s


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states—­ which the United States has long considered to be in its “backyard”—­resisted pressure to oppose the ICC, despite their close relations with and relative dependence on the hegemon to the north. Why? The answer is not self-­evident, and it is likely implicated in ­t hese countries’ broader international relations. For example, countries with strong ties to large Eu­ro­pean countries may have resisted signing bilateral immunity agreements with the United States. While the United States dropped this campaign during the Obama administration (2009–17), it has never joined the ICC. As the ICC has evolved, the role of Latin American states has been quite in­ter­est­ing to watch. It is striking that states in the region are overwhelmingly supportive of the court. No cases have been heard by the ICC against Latin Americans, and to date almost all ­those prosecuted by the court have been African. However, the ICC has carried out “preliminary examinations” in both Colombia and Venezuela. Since 2004, the ICC has been examining evidence of atrocities committed by rebels, paramilitaries, and security forces in Colombia. Chief Prosecutors Ocampo and Fatou Bensouda made multiple visits to Colombia to remind leaders that, even within the context of negotiating the historic 2016 peace agreement, the state was obligated to prosecute t­ hose responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Failure to do so would require that the ICC initiate such cases itself. Hence, the ICC has pushed Colombia t­ oward more rigorous h ­ uman rights accountability while at the same time respecting the country’s right to prosecute its own criminals. In the case of Venezuela, a group of Latin American countries (Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay, and Peru, joined by Canada) petitioned the ICC to open an investigation of excessive use of force by security forces, unlawful detentions, and abuse during detention since 2014. That investigation is ongoing.

The Regional ­Human Rights System Alongside the United Nations, regional organ­izations exist to promote po­ liti­cal dialogue. The Amer­i­cas have the oldest of t­hese regional organ­ izations: the Organ­ization of American States (OAS). It includes thirty-­five member states, stretching from Canada in the North to Argentina and Chile in the South. Just as the UN’s ­human rights system dates to the Universal Declaration of ­Human Rights, the inter-­A merican system has its

FIGURE  21. Chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Luis Moreno Ocampo (holding a camera), Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón (center), and Colombian attorney general Mario Iguarán (left) observe the exhumation of a mass grave in Colombia. Raul Arboleda/Getty Images.


Ag e n t s of R e f or m ­Table 5. ­Human Rights Treaties in the Amer­i­cas

American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man (1948) American Convention on ­Human Rights (1969) Protocol of San Salvador: Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1988) Protocol to Abolish the Death Penalty (1990) Cartagena Declaration on Refugees (1984) Inter-­American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture (1985) Inter-­American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Vio­lence Against ­Women (1995) Inter-­American Convention on Forced Disappearance of Persons (1996) Inter-­American Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (2001) American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous P ­ eoples (2016) Inter-­American Convention Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, and Related Forms of Intolerance (2017) Inter-­American Convention on Protecting the ­Human Rights of Older Persons (2017)

roots in the 1948 American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man. However, it was not u ­ ntil 1959 that the Inter-­A merican Commission on ­Human Rights (IACHR) was created. Initially much weaker than it is ­today, the IACHR was not authorized to investigate petitions u ­ ntil 1965. Four years ­later, in 1969, the American Convention on H ­ uman Rights was drafted. The convention entered into force in 1978, when the Inter-­ American Court of H ­ uman Rights also was formed.2 With t­ hese central institutions in place, more specialized h ­ uman rights treaties have been concluded since the 1980s (­Table 5). Together, ­these institutions and norms constitute the region’s h ­ uman rights system. Nearly e­ very country in Latin Amer­i­ca has ratified key international laws, w ­ hether negotiated u ­ nder the UN or ­under the OAS.

The Inter-­American Commission on H ­ uman Rights Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the IACHR is the official intergovernmental body charged with promoting ­human rights in the region. It is composed of seven in­de­pen­dent experts (not government representatives), appointed to four-­year terms by the OAS General Assembly. The IACHR

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is charged primarily with investigating cases of h ­ uman rights abuse by governments and reporting on h ­ uman rights conditions in the region. Investigations can be prompted by a petition, which can be submitted by an individual (­either a victim or a third party) or by an interested organ­ ization. The IACHR can also launch an investigation on its own initiative, though investigations are usually sparked by reports from organ­izations and individuals. Interestingly, in cases of third-­party reports, the IACHR need not have the victim’s consent. The commission also publishes an annual report, detailing the cases it has examined in a given year and offering its views on the state of ­human rights in the Amer­i­cas. Petitions can be submitted against any member state of the OAS, regardless of w ­ hether it has ratified the American Convention on H ­ uman Rights. Petitions can also allege general h ­ uman rights violations committed against a group of ­people. The following steps clarify the pro­cess by which the IACHR considers a h ­ uman rights petition. Step 1: Admissibility. For the IACHR to deem a petition admissible, the petition must include specific information: location and date of the violation; name of the victim(s); name of any state official accused; detailed information of government involvement (­whether direct or indirect), if pos­si­ble; and a list of the h ­ uman rights v­ iolated. Petitioners must establish that they have exhausted all domestic ­legal remedies, a fairly standard requirement for any international h ­ uman rights body. This implies that a petitioner has already pursued unsuccessfully all available domestic ­legal channels. Step 2: Government response. If a case is found admissible, the IACHR ­will request that the government in question respond to a petition within 90 days (but extensions of up to 180 days are pos­si­ble). Government responses must address the facts of a case and verify that domestic remedies have been exhausted. A government’s failure to respond to the IACHR’s request for information can be used to establish its guilt. Step 3: Petitioner’s comments. If a government responds to the IACHR, the petitioner is given thirty days to comment on that response and/ or submit additional material. In ­these comments, a petitioner can request that evidence be provided, an oral hearing be held with witnesses, or an on-­site investigation be conducted for general petitions.


Ag e n t s of R e f or m Step 4: Fact-­finding and investigation. The commission considers evidence, can hold a hearing, or can even conduct an on-­site investigation in the case of widespread abuses. Step 5: Recommendations. The IACHR reaches a decision and forwards its recommendations to the government. For governments that have ratified the American Convention, the commission is obligated to try to reach a “friendly settlement.” Step 6: Commission report. In cases where a friendly settlement is reached, the IACHR prepares a summary report that the OAS secretary general publishes. When the parties do not reach a settlement, the IACHR writes a report detailing facts and recommendations. It then gives the parties three months to decide ­whether to submit the case to the Inter-­A merican Court of H ­ uman Rights. At the conclusion of this period, the commission issues a formal resolution along with a timetable for the government to undertake specific mea­sures. Step 7: Final judgment. When a state has both ratified the American Convention and accepted the Inter-­A merican Court of ­Human Rights optional jurisdiction (discussed below), ­either the state or the commission can refer the case to the court. When this is not pos­si­ ble, the IACHR moves to issue a lengthy report with recommendations, including the possibility of monetary compensation. Unlike the court’s decision, however, the commission’s recommendations are nonbinding.

Despite the intricate steps that need to be taken when a petition is submitted to the IACHR, the commission is relatively active. Its caseload has increased substantially in recent years. Between 1997 and 2005, complaints to the IACHR more than tripled—­from 435 to 1,330. Many of its most prominent cases end up at the Inter-­American Court of H ­ uman Rights, which can issue a binding decision. And in one of its most effective activities, the IACHR conducts on-­site visits to trou­ble spots ­every year. In 2002, for example, the IACHR visited Ciudad Juárez and Mexico City to examine vio­lence against ­women, issuing a widely circulated report the following year. Special rapporteurs address the rights of indigenous ­people, ­women, ­children, Afro-­descendants, prisoners, LGBTQ individuals, and ­human rights defenders. Fi­nally, the IACHR annual report serves as a valuable

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public and authoritative source of information on ­human rights conditions in the region.

The Inter-­American Court of H ­ uman Rights Headquartered in San José, Costa Rica, the Inter-­A merican Court of ­Human Rights is the main judicial body in the Amer­i­cas for h ­ uman rights. It was created in 1979, with the express purpose of upholding the American Convention on H ­ uman Rights. Like other international courts, it is empowered both to hear cases of rights violations (adjudicate disputes) and to issue l­egal opinions about specific provisions of the American Convention (advisory opinions). The court consists of seven judges, who must be from member states of the OAS. The judges, who are elected by the OAS General Assembly, must meet the highest l­egal criteria and have superior ethical reputations. Judges serve for six-­year terms, with the possibility of being reelected for one additional term. At any given moment, no two judges from the same country can sit on the court. Judges, moreover, do not have to recuse themselves when hearing a case involving their own state, since—­like all judges—­they are expected to uphold the highest l­egal standards notwithstanding their personal commitments. Since its inception, the court has had one judge from the United States, Thomas Buergenthal, who served throughout the 1980s. UP CLOSE: MEMORIES OF A JUDGE “When I joined the Inter-­A merican Court, much of the Western Hemi­ sphere was still in the throes of massive ­human rights violations. In the Amer­i­cas of that time, the Cold War permitted the military regimes and civilian dictators to torture and dis­appear anyone whom they labeled as subversives. Often, too, the mere public discussion of h ­ uman rights could land a person in jail or worse. . . . “In the twenty-­five years since its establishment, the Court’s docket of contentious cases has grown significantly, and, on the w ­ hole, states are complying with the Court’s judgments. It is slowly but steadily gaining recognition in the region and successfully surmounting its initial growing pains. . . . “That the message sometimes gets through even without massive public relations efforts was vividly demonstrated to me while I served on


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the United Nations Truth Commission for El Salvador. We ­were interviewing some campesinos in a small village where serious h ­ uman rights violations had taken place during El Salvador’s long civil war. One of the witnesses, an old farmer, reported on what had happened in his village. He concluded with the demand that the government comply fully with the ‘Velásquez Rodríguez Law.’ Our chairman responded, ‘You mean the Velásquez Rodríguez case?’ ‘Yes,’ the old man replied, ‘the law does away with impunity and makes governments pay for their ­human rights violations.’ It ­will always remain a mystery for me how this farmer, living in that far away village in El Salvador, had heard about a judgment of the Inter-­A merican Court sitting in San José, Costa Rica. But the fact that he heard of it suggests that sometimes news that inspires hope in ­people whose ­human rights are being ­v iolated has a way of getting through and giving them hope.” Source: Thomas Buergenthal, “Remembering the Early Years of the Inter-­A merican Court of ­Human Rights,” New York University Journal of International Law and Politics 37 (2005): 259–80.

The court can hear cases only involving a state that is party to the American Convention and that has accepted voluntarily the court’s jurisdiction. States can accept the court’s general jurisdiction (i.e., for any case that may arise) or on a case-­by-­case basis. While the notion that states get to decide when they ­will appear before the court may sound bizarre, in a world of sovereign states ­these are fairly standard procedures in international law. Twenty Latin American states currently accept the court’s general jurisdiction.3 Cases can be brought before the court in one of two ways: (1) by state parties to the American Convention or (2) by the Inter-­A merican Commission on ­Human Rights. It is impor­tant to note that the court, like all international courts and reputable national ones, follows strict rules of procedure and requires a high threshold of evidence before it ­will issue a finding. This can entail listening carefully to witness testimony and consulting the views of experts. In cases of a negative judgment, the court can require the state to compensate victims and undertake other remedial steps, although states do not always comply with court decisions. The court is nonetheless well regarded internationally and has issued landmark

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findings that have left their imprint far beyond Latin Amer­i­ca. This includes the court’s first decision, in the Velásquez Rodríguez case. UP CLOSE: THE VELÁSQUEZ RODRÍGUEZ CASE (HONDURAS) Angel Manfredo Velásquez Rodríguez was a teacher and gradu­ate student in Honduras. On 12 September  1982, he was dis­appeared in downtown Tegucigalpa by seven armed men, dressed in civilian clothes, who whisked him away in a white car with no license plates. He left a family ­ ­ behind, including three small ­ children. ­ After ­ little pro­ gress within the Honduran l­egal system, the case was taken to the IACHR, which referred it to the Inter-­A merican Court. Witnesses before the court helped to establish that Velásquez Rodríguez had been abducted by state agents and held in a secret detention center before being tortured and killed, and that this case was one of many constituting a pattern of systematic ­human rights violations by the Honduran state. Consequently, in a landmark decision, the court found that states have a dual obligation to desist from committing h ­ uman rights violations and to protect individuals against their rights being ­v iolated. For the first time in international law, this case defined state obligations vis-­à-­ vis ­human rights in positive terms: States must protect every­one ­under their rule from harm. Source: Inter-­A merican Court of H ­ uman Rights, Case of Velásquez-­ Rodríguez v. Honduras, Judgment of 29 July  1988 (Merits), www​ .­corteidh​.­or​.­cr​/­docs​/­casos​/­a rticulos​/­seriec ​_­04​_­ing​.­doc.

Indeed, the Inter-­A merican Court has established a reputation for upholding the rule of law regardless of po­liti­cal considerations. This is evident in the case of Lori Berenson, a New Yorker and a former MIT student who was imprisoned in Peru for nearly twenty years. Berenson was convicted in 1996 for assisting the Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, a terrorist group best known for the 1997 Japa­nese embassy hostage crisis. Though she was initially given a sham military trial and imprisoned in inhumane conditions, the Inter-­American Court found that Berenson’s subsequent 2001 trial was fair. While international supporters of Berenson

­Table 6. Se­lection of Impor­t ant Decisions from the Inter-­American Court of H ­ uman Rights Case



Velásquez Rodríguez v. Honduras


The court’s first decision found Honduras responsible for forced disappearance and failing to protect its citizens.

Villagrán-­Morales v. Guatemala


Clarified state responsibilities ­toward street c ­ hildren, and found that Guatemalan security forces routinely intimidated, tortured, and murdered street ­children.

Barrios Altos v. Peru


Peru was responsible for a massacre carried out by a death squad; ruled amnesty laws are illegal.

Myrna Mack Chang v. Guatemala


Guatemala was responsible for failing to investigate and prosecute ­those who murdered a h ­ uman rights defender.

Plan de Sánchez Massacre v. Guatemala


Guatemala was responsible for many rights violations related to this massacre within the context of genocide, including discrimination and impunity.

La Cantuta et al. v. Peru

2006 Peru was responsible both for the extrajudicial killing of nine college students and a professor and for failing to deliver justice in the case.

González et al. (“Cotton Field”) v. Mexico

2009 Mexico failed to protect ­women in Ciudad Juárez from femicide.

Atala Riffo and ­ daughters v. Chile


In the court’s first decision on LGBTQ rights, it found Chile discriminated against a lesbian ­mother by denying her custody of her ­children.

Kichwa Indigenous ­People of Sarayaku v. Ec­ua­dor


Ec­ua­dor ­violated indigenous rights by granting an oil com­pany access to their lands without their consent.

Expelled Dominicans and Haitians v. Dominican Republic


Dominican Republic v­ iolated the rights of citizens and residents through discrimination, forced expulsions, and denial of nationality.

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called for her release, the court focused its decision on the integrity of the ­legal proceedings. Amnesty International concurred. ­L egal standards weighed most heavi­ly on the court, despite the po­liti­cal backlash against upholding the imprisonment of a U.S. citizen considered by some to be a ­human rights activist.

The Inter-­A merican System in Global Perspective The inter-­A merican h ­ uman rights system, along with its Eu­ro­pean and African counter­ parts, constitutes one of the world’s principal regional ­human rights systems.4 All of t­ hese regional systems sit u ­ nder an overarching international h ­ uman rights system, including the United Nations and the International Criminal Court. Of all the regional h ­ uman rights systems, Latin Amer­i­ca’s is the second oldest and strongest in the world, following the Eu­ro­pean system. The inter-­A merican ­human rights system differs from other parallel mechanisms in a few crucial ways: First, the reach of the Inter-­A merican court encompasses most of the region. The Latin American and Eu­ro­pean Courts of ­Human Rights have nearly universal membership within their respective regions, while only thirty out of fifty-­four African Union countries have joined the African Court on ­Human and ­Peoples’ Rights, which became operational a de­cade ago. Second, unlike the Eu­ro­pean Court, the inter-­A merican one does not accept cases directly from individual victims; instead, individuals are required to go through the commission. This is of crucial significance, since it limits access to the court and the number of cases considered. In contrast, the Eu­ro­pean system no longer has a commission, only a full-­time court. And the African Court allows individuals and NGOs to submit cases only if the country in question declares that it ­will allow this; to date, only six countries have done so. Third, unlike other regional institutions, the Inter-­ A merican Commission on H ­ uman Rights (IACHR) is empowered to conduct on-­site visits to countries where evidence exists of h ­ uman rights violations. While states have to agree to allow the IACHR into the


Ag e n t s of R e f or m country, such visits can put governments on alert, generate publicity, and ultimately empower local activists. Fourth, in contrast to Eu­ro­pean countries, most Latin American states do not automatically incorporate court findings into their domestic ­legal systems. The result is that national courts and legislatures rely on the Inter-­American Court’s findings sporadically and often only partially, weakening the system of implementation and compliance. Fifth, in terms of the volume of cases brought before t­ hese h ­ uman rights bodies, the difference is phenomenal. Between 1979 and 2005, the Inter-­ American Court issued judgments on 139 cases, compared to 130,241 decisions issued by the Eu­ro­pean Court between 1990 and 2005!

While the inter-­A merican ­human rights system lags ­behind the Eu­ro­pean regime in terms of efficiency, access to victims, and compliance with court rulings, it still remains relatively developed in global terms. As the inter-­A merican ­human rights system evolves over the years, it may continue strengthening some of its mechanisms. One international ­legal expert referred in the late 1990s to this regional system as “no longer a unicorn, not yet an ox.”5 In comparative global terms, Latin American institutions indeed score somewhere between the effectiveness of the Eu­ro­pean system of protection and that of the African system of protection. On the one hand, numerous specialized ­human rights agreements have been concluded, the IACHR’s caseload continues to expand, and the Inter-­A merican Court has issued landmark cases. Furthermore, the inter-­ American ­human rights system has increasingly turned its attention to newer issues, including the rights of vulnerable populations like c­ hildren, indigenous ­people, and internally displaced persons; economic and social rights, including the right to health; and even the relationship between climate change and h ­ uman rights. On the other hand, the efficiency of the overall system, its access to victims, and the uneven state compliance and domestic implementation represent major challenges to the current system. Not only is the inter-­A merican system younger than the Eu­ro­pean one, but the recent history of h ­ uman rights abuses continues to restrict the effectiveness of a region-­w ide system of protection in the Amer­i­c as. The legacy of years of authoritarian rule constrains the full effectiveness of this regional system. At some point, certain reforms w ­ ill be necessary, including perhaps streamlining complaints and giving victims more direct

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access to regional institutions. At the domestic level, moreover, national laws have to be changed so that the findings of the Inter-­A merican Court may be a­ dopted automatically, leading to greater state compliance. Unfortunately, the climate of impunity that prevails in much of the region is likely to hamper regional reforms and domestic implementation.

Conclusion Institutions often change incrementally and with surprising results. When a state ratifies an international ­human rights law negotiated ­under the auspices of the UN or the OAS, it may be ­doing so hypocritically. But when ­those laws are integrated into domestic ­legal systems, cited in the rulings of domestic courts, and used by activists to draw attention to the state’s failure to live up to them, they can become tools for change. Similarly, when states receive technical assistance from international and regional bodies, respond to their critiques, and share best practices with one another, incremental steps for reform are being taken. The last few de­cades have witnessed the gradual evolution of the international and inter-­A merican ­human rights systems. Po­liti­cal transformation, namely, the turn ­toward democ­ratization, has had an im­mense impact on the regional system’s development. The f­ uture of the inter-­ American ­human rights system ­will depend on the po­liti­cal climate within countries and broader international developments, alongside the power of ­human rights defenders to promote concrete change. As international and regional ­human rights institutions evolve, victims of abuse ­will continue turning to them, hopeful that global governance can deliver a mea­sure of justice. Discussion Questions 1. How do you think that UN ­human rights mechanisms are most valuable? What about the inter-­A merican ­human rights system? 2. To what extent do you think that a hegemonic power like the United States can influence regional h ­ uman rights mechanisms? Which other f­actors might be significant? 3. Why has the United States remained opposed to the International Criminal Court? 4. What criteria could one use to judge the effectiveness of governmental ­human rights bodies, including regional mechanisms or the IAHCR?


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5. Has the ICC done enough to push Colombia t­oward h ­ uman rights accountability? What role might it play in Venezuela?

Resources Additional Reading James L. Cavallero, Claret Vargas, Clara Sandoval, and Bernard Duhaime, eds., Doctrine, Practice, and Advocacy in the Inter-­American ­Human Rights System (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019). A l­egal casebook for regional h ­ uman rights law. Largely replaces David J. Harris and Stephen Livingstone, eds., The Inter-­American System of ­Human Rights (London: Oxford University Press, 1998). Par Engstrom, ed., The Inter-­American ­Human Rights System: Impact Beyond Compliance (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019). Experts in law, politics, and ­human rights examine the system from many a­ ngles. Iain Guest, ­Behind the Disappearances: Argentina’s Dirty War Against H ­ uman Rights and the United Nations (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1990). Engaging and thorough account of UN ­human rights pressure against Argentina’s dirty war regime. Julie Mertus, United Nations and ­Human Rights: A Guide for a New Era, 2nd ed. (New York: Routledge, 2008). Comprehensive guide to understanding UN ­human rights machinery. Jo M. Pasqualucci, The Practice and Procedure of the Inter-­American Court of ­Human Rights, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014). Detailed examination of the regional court. Dinah L. Shelton, “The Inter-­A merican ­Human Rights System,” in Guide to International ­Human Rights Practice, 4th ed., ed. Hurst Hannum (Ardsley, N.Y.: Transnational Publishers, 2004). Concise and thorough overview of regional ­human rights institutions. Beth A. Simmons, Mobilizing for ­Human Rights: International Law in Domes­ tic Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009). Though governments may ratify international law for hypocritical reasons, ratification can empower domestic activists and bring about real change. Filmography Documentaries ­Children of the Jaguar (2013). Co-­produced by Amnesty International and an indigenous group from Ec­ua­dor, this short film portrays their successful case for indigenous and environmental rights at the Inter-­A merican Court

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of H ­ uman Rights. 28 minutes. Available at https://­amazonwatch​.­org​/­news​ /­2013​/­0725​-­children​-­of​-­the​-­jaguar. The Reckoning: The B ­ attle for the International Criminal Court (2009). Follows ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo as he builds the institution from the ground up. 95 minutes. Sergio (2009). HBO documentary examining the life and death of Sergio Vieira de Mello. 94 minutes. Useful Websites Inter-­A merican Commission on ­Human Rights. Official website of the IACHR, a must-­visit by anyone interested in h ­ uman rights in the region. www​.­oas​.­org​/­es​/­cidh. Inter-­A merican Court of ­Human Rights. Official website of the region’s ­human rights tribunal. www​.­corteidh​.­or​.­cr​/­index​.­php​/­en. International Criminal Court. www​.­icc​-­cpi​.­int. International Justice Resource Center. Valuable resources on ­human rights mechanisms around the world, including videos and case studies on the inter-­A merican system. https://­ijrcenter​.­org. Loyola Law School, Loyola of Los Angeles International and Comparative Law Review’s Inter-­A merican Court of H ­ uman Rights Proj­ect. A searchable database and journal providing information about the court’s decisions. https://­iachr​.­lls​.­edu. Organ­ization of American States. Official website of the OAS, showing how ­human rights mechanisms fit into the region’s leading intergovernmental organ­ization. www​.­oas​.­org. Pan American Health Organ­ization. www​.­paho​.­org​/­hq​/­index​.­php​?­lang​= ­en. United Nations. General UN website, with access to numerous programs and agencies whose work intersects with ­human rights. http://­w ww​.­un​.­org. United Nations High Commissioner for ­Human Rights. www​.­ohchr​.­org. UN High Commission for Refugees. www​.­unhcr​.­org​/­en​-­us. UN ­Women. www​.­unwomen​.­org​/­en.

11 ­Human Rights Change


nderstanding the reasons why ­human rights changes occur is impor­ tant from a real-­world policy perspective. ­A fter all, the goal of ­human rights defenders and organ­izations is to improve ­human rights conditions. Yet given the multiplicity of actors and institutions, how do we know which approaches are most likely to succeed? Social scientists can help us think systematically about and or­ga­nize relevant ­factors, making sense of the complex dynamics under­lying all ­human rights transformations. The first step, however, is to assess or mea­sure how fully states are complying with internationally recognized ­human rights standards. While t­ hese mea­ sure­ments may be imperfect, they allow us to draw comparisons across cases and undertake the hard work of determining where reform has worked and where hopes remain unfulfilled.

Comparative Mea­sures of H ­ uman Rights ­ uman rights defenders seek, above all, to stop p H ­ eople from d ­ ying. This is not to minimize other harmful conditions like in­equality or torture, but stopping killings remains a high priority for obvious reasons. Thus, one way to mea­sure ­human rights conditions is to focus on the number of ­people killed in key events or episodes (­Table 7). Some truth commissions, for example, have followed this “events-­based” approach in an attempt to reveal the overall magnitude of a situation. While this approach seems intuitively right, the practice of quantifying abuses is often fraught with guesswork or necessarily l­ imited to a select number of years or cases—­particularly

­Human Rights Chang 273 ­Table 7. Major Episodes of Po­liti­cal Vio­lence: Selected Data from Latin Amer­i­ca Country (years)

Argentina (1976–80) Brazil (1980) Chile (1973–87) Colombia (1948–60)

Estimated number of p ­ eople killed (median)

20,000 1,000 20,000 250,000

Colombia (1975–2016+)


El Salvador (1979–92)


Guatemala (1966–96)


Haiti (2004–7)


Honduras (1970–90)


Mexico (1994–97)


Mexico (2006–2016+)


Nicaragua (1978–90)


Peru (1982–97)


Source: Monty G. Marshall, “Major Episodes of Po­liti­c al Vio­l ence,” Center for Systemic Peace, University of Mary­l and, 2019, www​.­systemicpeace​.­org​/­warlist​/­warlist​.­htm. Note that other sources, including ones cited elsewhere in this book, put ­these numbers much higher.

in places where ­people who w ­ ere “dis­appeared” have never been found or where the location of unmarked graves remains undisclosed. Nevertheless, such mea­sures are sometimes essential for po­liti­cal and l­egal reasons. International pressure is more likely to mobilize around cases of widespread and egregious h ­ uman rights violations. While a high number of victims is clearly not sufficient to mobilize international pressure (note the sluggish response to the atrocities in Rwanda and Darfur), a high magnitude of violations is more likely to elicit international attention. Legally, moreover, knowing the extent of violations is crucial for securing justice. A high number of victims, in contrast to a few isolated incidents, helps to establish a pattern of abuse. A high level of abuse also makes it more likely that a state, its leaders, and the perpetrators can be held responsible for ­human rights violations. For survivors of abuse and their relatives,


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extensive documentation and evidence can have a cathartic effect by exposing hidden truths. From an ethical point of view, thinking about h ­ uman rights victims in numerical terms can be vexing. On the one hand, even one victim of torture or disappearance is one too many. While the indeterminacy of ­human rights data requires speaking of a range of casualty figures, this can seem an ethically futile exercise. A cautious observer refers to a range of 9,000 to 40,000 desaparecidos in Argentina, a sensible precaution to take from the perspective of data analy­sis. But is the give-­and-­take of 31,000 ­human lives r­eally inconsequential? On the other hand, is t­here a difference between killing 9,000 p ­ eople—or even a few dozen—­versus 40,000? Should the number of victims, relative to the overall size of the population, ­matter legally? The answers to t­ hese questions are highly debated. For t­ hose who study systematically the c­ auses of ­human rights abuse, it is impor­tant to collect mea­sures for as many years and countries as pos­ si­ble. Since an events-­based approach is not always feasible, scholars have opted for mea­sure­ments that assess the overall level of abuse. For example, one of the leading mea­sures of personal integrity violations—­the Po­liti­cal Terror Scale (PTS)—­uses a five-­point scale, reflecting the extent to which violations of civil and po­liti­cal rights have become widespread (­Table 8). Experts tend to view ­these mea­sure­ments as relatively reliable; at the very least, they permit a general comparison of violations across countries and over time. State repression seemed to sweep across Latin Amer­i­ca at the end of the twentieth c­ entury in three successive waves. Roughly speaking, t­ hese waves of repression occurred in distinct subregions. H ­ uman rights violations w ­ ere most prominent in the 1970s in the South American countries of Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, and Paraguay, as well as Brazil. The 1980s ­were the de­cade in which Central American regimes like ­those in Guatemala and El Salvador captured the world’s attention with brutal civil wars and egregious h ­ uman rights abuses. The 1990s and the turn of the millennium shifted the locus of abuse more distinctly to Andean countries, especially Colombia, where a war on drugs was at the epicenter of widespread abuses. H ­ uman rights violations certainly occurred in other countries as well, but t­ hese subregional waves of repression remain noteworthy. Looking closely at ­Table 8 suggests a number of dif­fer­ent trajectories in recent de­cades. A few small countries (Costa Rica, Panama, and Ec­ ua­dor) had low levels of po­liti­cal terror throughout this period. Several

­Human Rights Chang 275 ­Table 8. Levels of Po­liti­cal Terror: Select Latin American Countries Argentina






Very High













Very High








Very Low




Very High

Very High

Very High


Costa Rica

Very Low

Very Low

Very Low

Very Low

Very Low







Dominican Republic












El Salvador

Very High






Very High

Very High



















Haiti Honduras Mexico Nicaragua











Very Low







Very High







Very Low

Very Low





Very High

Paraguay Peru Uruguay Venezuela

Source: Adapted from the Po­liti­c al Terror Scale, www​.­politicalterrorscale​.­org.

countries witnessed dramatic improvements in terms of po­liti­cal terror: Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay, for example, went from high or very high po­liti­cal terror scores to lower (i.e., better) scores. Another group of countries experienced high levels of h ­ uman rights violations with ­little improvement, and sometimes worsening realities, such as Mexico, Brazil, and Venezuela. However, it is noteworthy that, despite overall improvements over time, very high or high levels of ­human rights violations persist in three of the twenty countries listed, and medium levels in another twelve. The populations of Brazil, Mexico, and Venezuela make up more than half the total population of Latin Amer­i­ca; all three remain plagued by po­liti­cal terror. How does this compare to ­human rights violations outside the region? In general, Latin American countries had higher than average levels of


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­ uman rights violations between 1980 and 2000; before 2000, the level of h abuse in Latin Amer­i­ca was among the worst in the developing world. Since 2000, however, it has shown the greatest overall improvement in ­human rights conditions, although abuses still are commonplace. ­Today, Latin American countries score better on the Po­liti­cal Terror Scale than any other region except North Amer­i­ca and Eu­rope. In terms of specific abuses, Latin Amer­i­ca now has among the world’s lowest rates of disappearance, although a few de­cades ago it had the highest. Po­liti­cal imprisonment too has declined substantially. As elsewhere in the world, torture has been the region’s most common physical integrity violation. (Note that the death penalty has been abolished in all Latin American countries except Cuba and Guatemala, and neither of them has used it in many years.) Despite the advantages of counting victims and assessing levels of ­human rights abuses, students of ­human rights should be aware of a few caveats. In addition to reflecting mea­sure­ment errors, ­human rights data can be very difficult to interpret since victims’ willingness to come forward and report abuses may itself reflect the extent of violations. Thus, the number of violations may be deceptive. A low level of violations could indicate a climate of terror in which victims are fearful of reporting ­human rights crimes. Conversely, data indicating a higher number of violations may mean that reporting is relatively better, not that abuse is objectively rising. This constitutes an “information paradox”: more data about violations may reflect improved reporting rather than a rise in abuse; less data could be evidence of poor reporting rather than a lower number of violations. Attention to the broader climate facilitating the reporting of h ­ uman rights violations is therefore essential for interpreting ­human rights data. Kathryn Sikkink argues that, b­ ecause the Po­liti­cal Terror Scale is based on annual Amnesty International and U.S. State Department reports and b­ ecause ­those reports reflect higher standards and better access to information over time, they underestimate improvements in ­human rights.1 However, the Po­liti­cal Terror Scale only mea­sures violations committed by states, and then only specific kinds of violations—­physical integrity rights violations. It does not consider ­factors like widespread suffering from violations of social and economic rights. If we considered ­those kinds of violations, would we r­ eally describe Haiti, one of the poorest and least-­ developed countries on earth, as having medium or low levels of rights violations? And we must recognize that states are not always the greatest threats to ­human rights.2 ­Today, power­ful gangs wreak havoc across

­Human Rights Chang 277 Central Amer­i­ca, prompting millions to flee their homes. Though governments in the region are less likely to murder their citizens, criminals are more likely to do so ­today. In 2014, Latin American countries held thirteen of the top twenty rankings in the world for hom­i­cide rate. With only 8 ­percent of the world’s population, it suffered 31 ­percent of all the hom­i­ cides in the world that year.3 This may not be “po­liti­cal terror” in the traditional sense, but the state’s failure to protect citizens is deeply po­liti­cal. Quantifying and classifying h ­ uman rights abuse is necessary po­liti­cally and legally, even if it is more challenging than it may seem. Focusing too much on numbers and levels can nonetheless have a numbing and detaching effect, as figures and terms are tossed about without consideration for the moral magnitude of what is at stake—­the pain and suffering of individual flesh-­and-­blood h ­ uman beings. Ethically, comparative mea­sures are worthwhile as long as they illuminate the h ­ uman lives attached to them.

The Power of Transnational Advocacy Networks Understanding how and why ­human rights reform occurs—­the politics of ­ human rights transformation—­ requires examining pressures for change and ongoing conditions for abuse. Th ­ ese go hand in hand. Indeed, the push and pull of competing forces, for ­human rights protection and abuse, ­will always be a mainstay in the global arena. To view only one side of the equation disregards the full range of p ­ eople’s lived experiences, and it leads to an overly optimistic (or pessimistic) outlook. We begin with the forces for change. Chapters 9 and 10 described the actors who try to influence h ­ uman rights: domestic and international activists, allies within governments, foreign states, and regional and global institutions. But how do ­these groups interact so as to promote reform? When and how are they able to work together to turn hope into real change? The case studies chapters put ­human rights defenders and the institutions they turn to for help at the center of change. Social scientists see commonalities in ­these stories that point to patterns of ­human rights transformation. Among the most influential concepts to come out of the vast scholarship on h ­ uman rights is that of the transnational advocacy network (TAN).4 A TAN consists of any set of actors, traversing national borders, that is committed to a par­tic­u ­lar ­human rights campaign. Like any network, TANs are not regulated by a centralized coordinating authority; they are not hierarchical. Rather, they rely on dense interactions and information


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flows, loosely coordinating their campaigns. Th ­ ese actors form a complex web of linkages and interact—­despite their differences—to promote ­human rights reforms in a par­tic­u­lar context. Local and international NGOs form the backbone of most TANs; they are often working to get power­ ful states like the United States to use their leverage to improve h ­ uman rights in another country. For example, in recent years a transnational network has formed to counteract the disappearance of w ­ omen in the Mexican border town of Ciudad Juárez. Actors as varied as Eu­ro­pean and American student organ­izations, international NGOs like Amnesty International, members of the U.S. Congress, Mexican ­human rights organ­ izations, world-­renowned film directors, and celebrities like Jennifer Lopez work as part of a large informal transnational network. Connected across cyberspace, this network is dedicated to drawing attention to the murder of ­women and eliciting reform. Since transnational networks apply a broad and unique range of h ­ uman rights pressures, it is particularly useful to think of TAN activities in terms of the multiple audiences they address and the strategies they employ. In terms of audiences, TANs target ­human rights perpetrators, power­ful foreign governments, the world community, and even the victims of abuse. They also deploy a wide mix of strategies. When targeting perpetrators, they rely above all on the power of naming and shaming—­ exposing violations and invoking moral authority to embarrass a state into changing its be­hav­ior or, at the very least, responding to accusations of abuse. ­Because TANs are not naïve about their capacity to elicit change, they can be quite skillful in lobbying power­ful actors that may have more direct leverage, especially foreign governments. The hope is that governments w ­ ill incorporate h ­ uman rights concerns more fully into their foreign policies, applying material pressure like the threat of economic or military sanctions on h ­ uman rights violators. More broadly, TANs address the court of world opinion, knowing that the more ­people who mobilize around an issue, the more likely intense ­human rights pressure ­will follow. In this regard, TANs tend to rely heavi­ly on documentation, witness testimony, and vivid images of abuse. The assumption is that ­people are more likely to support a ­human rights cause once they are educated about what is happening, have heard victims speak for themselves, and are moved by power­ful images of ­human suffering. Within targeted countries, TANs tend to support h ­ uman rights victims and organ­izations directly, offering them financial or ­legal assistance,

­Human Rights Chang 279 training, and moral support. The goal is to lend them legitimacy, empowering them to continue functioning. ­These networks also cooperate with the regional and international h ­ uman rights mechanisms discussed in Chapter 10, submitting petitions on behalf of victims and presenting expert testimony before commissions and courts. ­Those institutions, in turn, exert diplomatic pressure and offer technical assistance. In practice, TANs rely on numerous mutually reinforcing strategies to achieve their goals. As the concrete examples in the case-­study chapters illustrate, transnational networks often work by way of a phenomenon that has been described as a boomerang effect.5 ­Here is the logic of the boomerang effect. Transnational networks often target countries that have both repressive regimes and strong ­human rights organ­izations. H ­ uman rights groups within such polities usually have l­ ittle or no power over the government, since in many cases they are the direct victims of abuse. With their local ave­nues of influence blocked, ­these local groups ­will bypass the domestic sphere and forge alliances with international actors, feeding external groups with crucial information about the abuses taking place in their country. As a result of t­ hese transnational alliances, external groups are much more likely to pressure a government, bolstering and empowering local actors in the pro­cess. In this way, the same government that silenced or ignored local groups w ­ ill become the object of even more intense international scrutiny and pressure. This is the boomerang effect: Government violators may dismiss ­human rights pressure applied by local groups; in a globalizing world, however, this strategy may backfire as international pressure returns manifold. In con­temporary politics, TANs are considered key engines of ­human rights change. The h ­ uman rights transformations that have swept the region cannot be understood simply as pressures from “above” or “below.” Top-­down pressures from international organ­izations like the United Nations or from power­ful governments like the United States have sometimes been necessary to raise the costs of repression for h ­ uman rights violators. But without the h ­ uman rights defenders on the front lines within t­hese countries, no amount of pressure from above would have caused such dramatic changes. Likewise, despite their valor and per­sis­tence, ­human rights activists—­often operating u ­ nder conditions of repression or targeted for vio­lence—­could not have thrived without their foreign allies. It is a combination of multiple and reinforcing pressures, from a variety of actors, that has sparked h ­ uman rights reforms across the region. And it is t­ hese alliances


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between state and non-­state actors, across the global North and South, that help to explain remarkable h ­ uman rights changes. Each actor brought something unique to the ­table; together they altered the ­human rights landscape. Where international actors lacked domestic allies, or vice versa, where domestic groups did not forge external ties, h ­ uman rights abuses often persisted defiantly. While transformation may promote principled change, including ­human rights reform, TANs are still made up of many po­liti­cal actors. This means that ­human rights campaigns in Latin Amer­i­ca have targeted some issues and places more than o­ thers. For example, why have efforts on behalf of indigenous rights or prisoners in the region been relatively weak ­until recently? And why has ­there been less transnational activism regarding economic and social rights, including the right to health? When ­human rights networks do emerge, moreover, they remain hostage to the realities of power: They face funding shortages, po­liti­cal opposition, and unequal access to government decision making. Despite their strengths, the vari­ ous actors cooperating within a network are always constrained by their po­liti­cal environments; they are never as autonomous as they may seem from afar. The most successful transnational ­human rights networks are precisely t­ hose that use politics to their advantage, mobilizing public opinion and transforming state interests. As significant as transnational h ­ uman rights networks are, therefore, it is impor­tant to think critically about when and why t­ hese networks emerge and which issues generate the most attention and are most likely to succeed. Existing research suggests that transnational groups are indeed more likely to mobilize around certain issues, especially t­ hose relating to bodily harm and vulnerable groups—­for example, torture or child trafficking.6 When the links between perpetrator and victim are more diffuse and complex, as they are with many economic and social rights (including rights to health care, housing, and education), transnational mobilization w ­ ill be more difficult. Differences across ­human rights issues remind us to look for h ­ uman rights prob­lems that are not the focus of transnational campaigns. Paradoxically, how much attention an issue receives does not necessarily indicate its importance. Even if the vari­ous parts of a transnational network operate in unison, inequalities in power can still shape network dynamics. For example, power­f ul NGOs in the global North can be paternalistic, sometimes dictating the terms of interaction with local partners in Latin Amer­i­ca.

­Human Rights Chang 281 Governments that provide international NGOs with funding may also have expectations of ­these organ­izations, hoping in some cases that they ­will mimic their own foreign policies or at least not oppose them. Even the most power­ful international h ­ uman rights NGOs are constrained to some degree by their po­liti­cal environments and, ultimately, by state sovereignty. States still decide the basic rules that NGOs operating in their countries must follow. Likewise, no actor can enter a foreign country to conduct a fact-­finding mission without the express permission of the government being investigated. Transnational flow may be greater than it has ever been historically, but state sovereignty does persist. Unequal resources can be an additional source of strain in transnational relations. Accordingly, only some groups can afford to travel to conferences or to equip themselves with the latest technology. In general, for local NGOs to attract external support, they have to be relatively successful to begin with, potentially reinforcing existing power imbalances. Being located in par­tic­u­lar kinds of states (ones that care about their international reputations and that have active civil socie­ties) also provides advantages. ­Human rights victims and NGOs that find themselves in less globally interdependent economies and weaker civil socie­ties are not as likely to get connected to a transnational network. We may not be used to thinking about the inequities that underlie transnational ­human rights networks, but they are real and should not be forgotten. Observers can often be dismissive of international h ­ uman rights pressure. They point to the hy­poc­risy of power­ful foreign governments, who themselves abuse h ­ uman rights and then pressure developing countries. They question the po­liti­cal objectivity and effectiveness of international NGOs that rely on grassroots campaigns and strategies to ­counter egregious h ­ uman rights violations far away. They can be skeptical of local ­human rights groups, questioning ­either their innocence (Have they done something to deserve their plight? Are they exaggerating out of self-­interest?) or their power to resist abusive governments successfully. Taken in isolation, each actor that forms part of a transnational network is certainly ­limited in what it can do to change repressive h ­ uman rights conditions. The key is to view transnational h ­ uman rights pressure as part of a complex network. Despite power imbalances and the individual weaknesses of actors, it is the linkages between the actors that are most significant. Debating which actor mattered most in eliciting h ­ uman rights reforms in a par­tic­u­lar country is pointless. Transnational ­human rights networks must


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FIGURE 22. An example of a TAN putting the boomerang effect to work. Marlon Santi, president of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ec­ua­dor (CONAIE), speaks at a 2010 press conference at the Center for International Justice and International Law (CEJIL) in Costa Rica. CONAIE, CEJIL, and ­others worked to bring the case Sarayaku v. Ec­ua­dor before the Inter-­American Court of ­Human Rights. They won, and Ec­ua­dor complied with the ruling. Yuri Cortez/Getty Images.

be conceptualized as a multiplicity of complex pressures, pushing states to make concessions and alter their abusive practices. Within this scheme, local activists in repressive socie­ties—­whether consisting of families of the dis­appeared, religious organ­izations, l­awyers, or ­human rights defenders combating entrenched discrimination or in­equality—­remain the crucial link. Local groups provide essential information about violations and unparalleled stories of abuse. Empowering them is crucial to the success of any ­human rights campaign. Armed with local allies, transnational h ­ uman rights networks have mounted formidable assaults in Latin Amer­i­ca, forcing state violators to respond and sometimes to change their be­hav­ior.

Conditions for Reform No ­matter how strong a ­human rights network, the conditions ­under which it operates ­matter to its capacity to promote change. In Chapter 1, we noted that ­under certain conditions, decision makers are more likely to opt to violate h ­ uman rights; they are also more likely to dismiss pressure for reform. ­Those conditions included war and other threats to national security,

­Human Rights Chang 283 poverty and in­equality, exclusionary ideologies, and the absence of democracy. Several of ­these ­factors have indeed shifted across Latin Amer­i­ca and help to explain overall improvements in h ­ uman rights. Most obvious, and perhaps most impor­tant, ­there are no armed conflicts occurring in Latin Amer­i­ca ­today. While the 1980s saw Peru, Colombia, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua engulfed in civil war, ­those conflicts ­were eventually resolved. Young ­people ­today do not feel compelled to take up arms against their governments; they are far more likely to stage a protest or run for office. The war on drugs and high crime rates are often invoked to justify h ­ uman rights abuse, particularly in Brazil, Mexico, and Central Amer­i­ca, but elsewhere few clear threats to national security exist in Latin Amer­i­ca. Large-­scale protests remain common, and governments still sometimes respond with force. In Chile in 2019, President Sebastián Piñera sent the military into the streets of Santiago to suppress peaceful protests against in­equality alongside looters who set fire to subway trains and ransacked grocery stores. At least eigh­teen p ­ eople died. That year witnessed massive protests in Ec­ua­dor, Bolivia, Colombia, and especially Venezuela, where the Maduro administration treats demonstrations as part of a broad, U.S.-­backed plot to end the Bolivarian Revolution. In short, some Latin American governments still perceive threats, which may make them more prone to rationalizing violations of ­human rights. Nevertheless, democracy reigns across the region. In 1978, Freedom House ranked only four of nineteen Latin American countries “­Free”; twenty years l­ater, the number had risen to eleven. Since then, almost all countries have ­f ree, fair, regular elections to choose po­liti­c al leadership. Only Cuba and, recently, Venezuela and Nicaragua are outside the demo­cratic fold. Undeniably, citizens are often deeply dissatisfied with the quality of democracy, particularly as corruption persists and governments fail to provide sufficient economic opportunity and citizen security. Still, the rise in democracy has been strongly correlated with a decline in po­liti­cal terror and physical integrity violations by the state. The question is ­whether ­these democracies ­will become consolidated and regain public confidence. As we saw in Chapter 8, poverty and in­equality have declined. Economists and ­human development experts call the 1980s the “lost de­cade” ­because at the end of the de­cade Latin Americans ­were worse off socioeco­ nom­ically than they had been at its beginning. Since 1990, however,


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millions of Latin Americans have climbed out of poverty. The m ­ iddle class has expanded, but the most common experience is still economic vulnerability, where an individual is no longer living in poverty—on less than $4 a day—­but is just one financial shock away from falling back below that cutoff. Latin Amer­i­ca has come a long way, even if it has far to go in reducing poverty. A long economic recession beginning in 2014 jeopardized pro­gress, as did the toll of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. What about exclusionary ideologies, the systems of belief that justify the use of vio­lence or discrimination against certain ­people or in specific situations? In the twentieth c­ entury, anti-­communism and the national security doctrine had a power­ful influence over the be­hav­ior of governments across Latin Amer­i­ca, often allowing them to justify to themselves treating their enemies as if they w ­ ere not entitled to h ­ uman rights. Th ­ ose ideologies w ­ ere reinforced with incentives for t­hose within the military, police, or government who showed the greatest rigor in suppressing perceived communists, and external incentives in the form of U.S. backing, training, weapons, and financial support for regimes that embraced the national security doctrine. With the end of the Cold War in 1991, the power of ­these exclusionary ideologies faded substantially. Other exclusionary ideologies have proven harder to eradicate in the region and globally, including racism, sexism, and homophobia. The scourge of femicide and other forms of vio­lence against w ­ omen (addressed in Chapters  4 and 7) is impossible to understand without accounting for sexism. Even where governments have embraced antidiscrimination legislation and laws to protect the rights of ­women, LGBTQ ­people, Afro-­ descendants, and the indigenous, t­ hose laws have been unevenly enforced and frequently v­ iolated. Exclusionary ideologies make it easier for citizens and governments to ignore h ­ uman rights violations or even support them. As neoliberal economics have become entrenched across Latin Amer­i­ca, governments routinely invoke the need for economic growth to justify infringing on indigenous lands and on protections of economic and social rights for all citizens. Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, for example, decried the fact that 15 ­percent of Brazil’s territory had been set aside for indigenous groups. He promised to open t­hose lands to mining, farming, and large infrastructure proj­ects like hydroelectric dams. Th ­ ese proj­ects threaten the survival of Brazil’s indigenous communities. The role of U.S. foreign policy has changed as well. In the early twentieth ­century, the United States acquired huge swaths of Mexican territory,

­Human Rights Chang 285 invaded and occupied many Latin American countries, strongly influenced military culture, and was the most impor­tant economic force in the region. During the Cold War, the United States played a near-­hegemonic role, carry­ing out covert operations, supporting many authoritarian regimes that ­violated ­human rights, and throwing its support ­behind one side or another in wars across the hemi­sphere. But since the end of the Cold War, the United States has played a less vis­i­ble role. Though it has remained engaged in South Amer­i­ca, the continent has rarely been an impor­tant part of U.S. foreign policy in the last thirty years, with the exception of the drug war in Colombia. As discussed in Chapter 4, Mexico and Central Amer­ i­ca have recently faced g­ reat pressure from the United States over drug trafficking and immigration. The United States has pushed ­those countries to block p ­ eople from reaching its border and financed militarized responses to migration and crime with grave repercussions for ­human rights. Overall, however, what seems to have changed most is the relevance of the United States to outcomes across Latin Amer­i­ca. Governments across the region enjoy much greater autonomy. The United States still exerts leverage through sanctions against Cuba and Venezuela over opposition from most OAS members, but it more often finds itself in line with regional priorities of democracy promotion and neoliberal economic development.

Models of ­Human Rights Transformation Scholars have turned to two types of models to explain ­human rights improvements. One is a static model of change, emphasizing the conditions that must exist at any given moment for ­human rights to improve. This type of explanation often focuses on the importance of certain actors applying pressure (including foreign governments, international organ­izations, NGOs, or broader networks of many actors) or on the significance of the institutional preconditions, like democracy and economic development. While this model is appealing, static accounts can be problematic. Approaches that focus on the overriding importance of ­human rights pressure, for example, very often cannot explain why ­human rights changes occur when they do. A ­ fter all, pressures are often applied for very long periods of time and reforms occur only sometimes. Furthermore, even when changes occur, sometimes the changes seem symbolic and even hypocritical; for instance, a government might reduce the number of disappearances but increase the level of torture, or abuses might fall in urban areas but


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rise in rural locations. In short, the effects of ­human rights pressure are far from uniform, so it is risky to assign such pressures overwhelming significance when trying to understand ­human rights change. Likewise, approaches that focus mostly on institutional conditions can be problematic. For example, democracy is itself a complex phenomenon, difficult to explain and the product of an intricate mix of domestic and international conditions. Moreover, states often begin to improve ­human rights before they de­moc­ra­tize. ­Human rights pressure can itself be a catalyst for democ­ratization. This creates a chicken-­a nd-­egg-­t ype scenario: ­Human rights pressure can help lead to democ­ratization, which allows ­human rights pressure to be more effective. Yet even ­after a state embarks on democ­ratization, h ­ uman rights protections can be highly uneven. ­Human rights reforms are never, therefore, simply a byproduct of democracy. ­Human rights conditions certainly may improve b­ ecause states are subject to ­human rights pressure or they are undergoing democ­ratization, but at best ­these are necessary—­not sufficient—­conditions for reform. Partly to address t­ hese gaps, some scholars have proposed dynamic mod­ els to explain how ­human rights conditions transform over time. Foremost among t­hese is the spiral model. According to this model, ­human rights changes can be understood as passing through a series of phases. In the first phase, state repression is high, and local h ­ uman rights groups begin mobilizing and forging transnational networks. In the second phase, repressive governments engage in a policy of denial, rejecting ­human rights pressures. By the third stage, they begin giving in to ­human rights pressure by offering “tactical concessions”; their goal is to avoid damage to their reputations or to escape punishment. In the fourth phase, some states ­will then move to internalize international h ­ uman rights norms or they w ­ ill change their domestic laws and institutions to accommodate ­human rights princi­ples. Rule-­consistent be­hav­ior, however, does not occur ­until the final phase, when norms and practices converge fully and state hy­ poc­risy is a t­hing of the past. It is impor­tant to note that the spiral model is a model, so it deliberately simplifies a complex pro­cess. The assumption is that not ­every state ­will undergo ­every phase in precisely the same way, if at all. Much ­will depend on the ­actual strength of ­human rights groups, the per­sis­tence of pressure, and the nature of the par­tic­u­lar state in question. The insights of dynamic and static models of h ­ uman rights change can also be combined and amended. The spiral model usefully showcases how

­Human Rights Chang 287 a state targeted for pressure w ­ ill alter its practices over time, but it cannot entirely account for why states often respond in dif­fer­ent ways to similar ­human rights pressures. A compelling model of h ­ uman rights change must address both why reforms are appealing and why continued violations are no longer deemed appropriate. Although h ­ uman rights pressures can raise the costs of violating h ­ uman rights, making it less v­ iable to do so, exclusionary ideologies and domestic instability often push states to violate ­human rights even in the face of countervailing pressures. Accordingly, if states initiate significant ­human rights reforms, it is only ­because they face pressures to do so and they have fewer incentives to violate h ­ uman rights. Very few governments, however, ­will reform their ­human rights practices during a period of domestic instability and turmoil, regardless of any pressure they face. The evidence shows that h ­ uman rights effects can be subtle, as states respond in vari­ous ways to a ­human rights violation. In the short term, ­there can be changes in rhe­toric, cosmetic improvements, or some decline in violations. H ­ uman rights pressures can also empower local groups and activists, and they can strengthen the position of those within the regime that favor reform. Activists must in turn find internal divisions within government and seek out allies. Regionally, moreover, countries in closest proximity to one another tend to mimic one another’s be­hav­ior. Po­liti­cal scientists refer to this as regional contagion, when democ­ratization or ­human rights violations seem to spread to neighboring countries. This might explain why, despite impor­tant differences in h ­ uman rights pressures, countries in a subregion often show remarkably similar trends. In general, a close look at ­human rights changes reveals their complex nature, both in terms of what counts as change and why it occurs. On the one hand, we cannot assume that ­human rights have improved based on single indicators, such as a decline in one type of violation, government ratification of a ­human rights treaty, or willingness to invite foreign monitors or to change domestic laws. We must look for counterevidence of ongoing abuse. On the other hand, any improvement can be significant from a ­human rights perspective. One po­liti­cal prisoner freed is one life improved. And even symbolic gestures can have disproportionate effects over time, as activists push a government to build on its previous commitments. In this way, in the to-­a nd-­fro of small hypocritical gestures and consistent activist demands, more consequential ­ human rights changes can occur and accumulate over time. What we see as ­human


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rights transformation is the combined effects over time of multiple complex ­factors, si­mul­ta­neously pushing and pulling states to protect or abuse ­human rights.

Conclusion: Transformation Is a Spectrum The effectiveness of transnational ­human rights pressures can vary a ­great deal. Across the region, widely divergent ­human rights changes are evident. The highest concentration of success occurred in the Southern Cone, where ­human rights pressures led to democ­ratization and more robust transitional justice. In other parts of the region, h ­ uman rights transformations may not have been as dramatic but still can be seen at the micro-­level, through the rise of activism and in small but real improvements. Despite the vast scale of vio­lence once evident in Central Amer­i­ca, UN assistance and regional diplomacy led to negotiated peace agreements. Colombia’s long national nightmare of civil war is also drawing to a close. While Cuba, Haiti, Guatemala, and Venezuela may seem relative failures on the h ­ uman rights front, all of ­these countries have seen an impressive growth in ­human rights advocacy groups. Furthermore, the type of abuse at stake may be significant in explaining transnational influence: State repression may be more easily targeted than systemic and socially ingrained patterns of discrimination against groups like ­women, indigenous ­people, and homosexuals or than the effects of globalization on economic and social rights. The dynamics mediating change in the case of criminality, police vio­lence, corruption, environmental threats, or migration, which cannot be viewed only or even primarily through a h ­ uman rights prism, may be even more dif­fer­ent. ­Human rights defenders ­will therefore have to continue innovating, as they confront ­these twenty-­first-­century challenges. If the story of h ­ uman rights vio­lence is one of terror, the story of h ­ uman rights transformation inspires cautious but unrelenting hope. Transnational networks can exert both symbolic power (through testimonials, documentation, and shaming) and material power (through sanctions and condemnation by power­ful actors). Their influence is nonetheless constrained by power­ful structures: vio­lence, poverty, de­pen­dency. It would therefore be naïve to expect the mere application of ­human rights pressures, however intense, to lead to dramatic improvements—­just as it would be

­Human Rights Chang 289 cynical to dismiss small gestures on the part of violators, since even ­these can improve individual conditions and set in motion unintended pro­ cesses of change and reform. Discussion Questions 1. Is the ­human rights rhe­toric of governments significant, even when it is hypocritical? 2. Do h ­ uman rights improvements occur along a continuum, or in fits and starts? Discuss. 3. What is the relationship between ­human rights protection and democracy? Does one cause the other? 4. Why would countries in a region (or subregion) mimic one another’s h ­ uman rights practices? 5. Is it pos­si­ble to mea­sure h ­ uman rights violations? Is it desirable? What role, if any, do po­liti­cal ­factors play in quantifying ­human rights abuses? 6. Can you apply the boomerang effect or spiral model to specific cases covered in this book? How well do ­these models seem to apply?

Resources Additional Reading Susan Burgerman, Moral Victories: How Activists Provoke Multilateral Action (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2001). Analy­sis of h ­ uman rights change, especially in the Central American context. Sonia Cardenas, Conflict and Compliance: State Responses to H ­ uman Rights Pres­ sure (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007). Overview of why states respond to h ­ uman rights pressure; includes extensive case studies of Argentina and Chile. Frances Hagopian and Scott P. Mainwaring, eds., The Third Wave of Democ­ ratization in Latin Amer­i­ca: Advances and Setbacks (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005). A volume tracing the pro­gress and challenges facing countries in the region that have demo­cratized since 1978. Patrick William Kelly, Sovereign Emergencies: Latin Amer­i­ca and the Making of Global H ­ uman Rights Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018). Detailed history arguing that it was responses to Brazilian, Argentine, and Chilean ­human rights crises that led to the con­temporary model of h ­ uman rights politics. Thomas Risse, Stephen C. Ropp, and Kathryn Sikkink, eds., The Power of ­Human Rights: International Norms and Domestic Change (Cambridge:


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Cambridge University Press, 1999). Influential book explaining h ­ uman rights change, including a comparative case study of Chile and Guatemala. Useful Websites CIRI ­Human Rights Database (Cingranelli-­R ichards). An easy-­to-­use tool for students of ­human rights, providing quantitative mea­sure­ments for a large number of h ­ uman rights practices for the period 1980–2011; regional data can be isolated. www​.­humanrightsdata​.­com. Freedom House. U.S.-­based organ­ization offering rigorous tracking of civil and po­liti­cal freedom and advocating for more of it. https://­freedomhouse​ .­org. Po­liti­cal Terror Scale. Scholars quantify repression. www​.­politicalterrorscale​ .­org.


¡Sí Se Puede!


he phrase ¡Sí se puede!, or “Yes, we can!,” has become an activist rallying cry and a slogan in po­liti­cal campaigns signaling transformation and re­spect for ­human rights—­from Latinx farm workers and immigration-­reform advocates in the United States to presidential candidates r­unning on a theme of change, ­whether Barack Obama or Juan Guaidó of Venezuela. The phrase’s origins are significant. Dolores Huerto, a Mexican-­A merican community activist and civil rights defender, who cofounded with César Chávez the United Farm Workers of Amer­i­ca, coined the phrase in 1972. ­Little did she know that her ­simple but power­ful words would cross bound­aries to mobilize and inspire. The phrase is appropriate for understanding the politics of ­human rights transformation. It puts hope front and center, against all odds, propelling activists and ­others forward, urging them to envision and create change. Against g­ reat odds, indeed, enormous change has come to Latin Amer­ i­ca. Latin American leaders—­like many of their counter­parts elsewhere—­ recognize that mass-­scale detention, disappearance, and extrajudicial execution of domestic po­liti­cal opponents is unacceptable ­today. Most governments go beyond instrumentality in their re­spect for basic h ­uman rights norms, embedding t­ hese norms in domestic institutions and frameworks of governance. However flawed, demo­cratic institutions across the region and at the inter-­A merican level provide a way for members of the public to potentially hold their po­liti­cal leaders accountable. If we take the dirty-­war era of the 1970s and 1980s as our starting point, ­human rights pro­gress in the region has been nothing short of remarkable. Both the number and the scope of ­human rights violations have declined considerably in recent de­cades and many countries show evidence

292 C onc lus ion of demo­cratic consolidation. The region has played a leadership role in international ­human rights forums, while h ­ uman rights discourse has become familiar jargon to Latin Americans. Though pro­gress remains incremental and punctuated by setbacks, h ­uman rights reforms are amply evident throughout Latin Amer­i­ca. The trick is to see how ­human rights conditions have improved without being blinded to real and ongoing hardship.

Per­sis­tent Challenges Despite a drastic reduction in state repression, a rise in democ­ratization, and calls for economic and social reform, the f­uture of h ­ uman rights in the region remains uncertain. Pockets of re­sis­tance continue to challenge the cry of Latin Americans for basic decency and humane treatment. This cry is expressed through popu­lar protest, social demands for change, immigration flows, activism, art, voting, vio­lence, and personal anguish. Con­temporary h ­ uman rights abuses, in turn, reflect deeply embedded structural inequalities that are difficult to reverse. Three ele­ments, in par­tic­u­lar, constrain the possibilities for more drastic change: poverty and in­equality (which persist and produce domestic instability), a climate of impunity (associated with weak demo­cratic institutions, including the rule of law), and entrenched exclusionary ideologies. ­These remain the sources of h ­ uman rights abuse. Power­ful international actors ­will shape h ­ uman rights outcomes to the extent that they influence ­these fundamental tensions. While much has changed in the region—­far fewer armed groups and no wars exist, most regimes are demo­cratizing, and anti-­communism is largely in the past—­there are ongoing reasons why ­human rights violations continue. Poverty and in­equality are root ­causes of ­human rights abuse. When the gap between the haves and the have-­nots is particularly wide so that basic ­human needs go unmet, social demands can turn violent and social conflict is much more likely to erupt; ­those in power are also more inclined to resort to force to retain their privileged status. If vio­lence erupts, decision-­ making elites ­will likely turn to repression as their preferred mode of social control. ­These dynamics help to explain shockingly high levels of ­human rights abuses in the 1970s, primarily taking the form of civil and po­liti­cal rights violations. As demo­cratic transitions helped socie­ties institutionalize ways of solving conflict nonviolently, the region’s more recent history has been one in

C onc lus ion 293 which ongoing violations of economic and social rights have led to popu­ lar discontent, both with the failure of traditional politicians to deliver on their promises and the perceived inequities perpetuated by neoliberal policies promoted by power­ful foreign actors. Discontent in recent years has manifested itself in essential po­liti­cal shifts, first through the “pink tide” and then in a populist, rightward shift. The long-­term effects on ­human rights still are unclear. The public is disappointed by the corruption of the Left and the failure of democracy to deliver greater prosperity and security. ­W hether this ­will undermine demo­cratic and ­human rights norms remains to be seen. While democracies clearly are associated with greater levels of h ­ uman rights protection, they remain complex institutional phenomena: If a key piece of the demo­cratic puzzle is missing (e.g., rule of law), the overall outcome ­will not live up to its potential. Latin Amer­i­ca’s democracies have proved relatively resilient and capable of weathering change, but the prob­ lems of impunity and lack of accountability remain deeply problematic. George Santayana, the Spanish phi­los­o­pher and writer, famously remarked at the turn of the nineteenth c­ entury, “­Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” If Santayana was right, confronting past ­human rights atrocities and abuses is not simply a m ­ atter of justice; it may be part of preventing f­ uture abuses. Latin Americans realized this in the 1980s and 1990s when they echoed the words proclaimed de­cades ­earlier, ­a fter the horrors of the Holocaust ­were exposed: Nunca Más, or “Never Again.” Noble intentions aside, much work remains to address impunity for the ­human rights abuses of the past. Impunity also underlies the widespread corruption that characterizes the region—­from fraud and embezzlement by state and non-­state elites to police abuse and criminality to the targeting of ­human rights defenders and members of the media who dare to expose injustices that other­wise would go unpunished. The sources of impunity are no doubt complex, yet at a minimum they reflect weaknesses in the rule of law. Democracies that score high in electoral terms can still be illiberal if basic abuses occur and are left unpunished. The recent history of Latin Amer­i­ca supports this contention. Although the exclusionary ideology of anti-­communism has faded away, conceptions of national security remain deeply problematic. Th ­ ese define when and how militaristic responses are appropriate in domestic politics. Within the context of the wars on drugs and crime, militaries have turned

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FIGURE  23. ­People coming from Venezuela into Colombia during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. Schneyder Mendoza/AFP via Getty Images.

increasingly to domestic security issues, leading many critics to worry that the armed forces are overstepping their appropriate institutional roles in demo­cratic regimes. Broader militarization has also meant that police and other security forces resort to vio­lence freely rather than work through ­legal channels. Any challenge to the state is potentially a justification to suspend legally protected rights. And while sexism, racism, and homophobia may be more openly challenged, their capacity to destroy lives and crush dreams continues. The fragility of pro­gress in the region was severely tested with the onslaught of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. Impor­tant economic and social gains made in recent de­cades began to dis­appear in a m ­ atter of months. Not only did Latin Amer­i­ca experience some of the highest death rates and concentrations of the virus in the world (with six of the region’s countries in the top twenty-­five countries worldwide for number of cases, and Brazil in the third spot with 7.5 million cases at the end of 2020), but the effects on in­equality w ­ ere immediately felt and devastating. As Chapter 8 showed, the condition of countless p ­ eople in the region is one of economic vulnerability; as they have edged t­ oward the m ­ iddle class, any external shock still threatens to upend their livelihood and lives. The Covid-19 pandemic proved to be such a shock, with ­people losing their jobs (many of

C onc lus ion 295 them in the informal economy, where workers lacked health insurance and a safety net) and students dropping out of school to support their families. Many first-­generation university students ­were forced to forgo their dream for a dif­fer­ent life. Emerging demo­cratic institutions also took a beating, as countries postponed elections and court appointments and as corrupt systems ran rampant. Unequal access to economic and social rights, reflecting a deep history of in­equality, not surprisingly led to displacement in the form of migration flows and profound social dislocation. As one medical journal described it, “COVID-19 [in Latin Amer­i­ca] began as a health crisis but is now a humanitarian crisis.”1 It is too soon to tell the lasting effects of the pandemic on the region or the world; but the experience speaks to the fundamental importance of having strong institutional foundations, which can protect the full range of internationally recognized ­human rights. When the ­going gets tough, ­those with the strongest foundations and resources ­will be best able to withstand the shock, whereas t­ hose who are already vulnerable and marginalized ­will not fare as well. The lesson is that we need to protect ­human rights both for t­ oday and for an unknown f­ uture.

Transforming Terror into Hope From afar, the numbers of victims and methods of repression in Latin Amer­i­ca ­today may not shock us as much as do tales of genocide and large-­ scale disappearances. Up close, the pain and suffering of countless ­human beings who are beaten or killed, displaced from their homes, threatened on a daily basis, allowed to go hungry, or other­wise marginalized and discriminated against is no less compelling. In October  2001, former Brazilian president Fernando Henrique Cardoso urged the world: “Fight vigorously against terror but also against the under­lying c­ auses of terror: hunger, ignorance, in­equality and distorted perceptions of other cultures.”2 Almost two de­cades ­later, that fight continues. H ­ uman rights protections across Latin Amer­i­ca hang on the ability of national leaders, at long last, to devise comprehensive policies—to find a balance between national security and personal integrity, between civil and po­liti­cal rights on the one hand and economic and social rights on the other. The history of ­human rights in Latin Amer­i­ca is one of alternating terror and hope, but it is also one of transformation. Even the Covid-19 pandemic needs to be placed within its broadest historical context. Depictions

296 C onc lus ion of ­human rights events in the region as characterized entirely by ­either terror or hope are overly simplistic and ultimately wrong. Horrific abuses have occurred in the region in the not-­so-­distant past, just as the continent has been a model of ­human rights activism and pro­gress. It is crucial that socie­ties commit to the idea that they w ­ ill not return to the horrors of the past—­nunca más—­while remaining vigilant to a disturbing possibility: No society, ­under the right circumstances, is immune from widespread ­human rights violations. Ongoing abuses and in­equality w ­ ill continue because transformation is always a work in pro­ ­ gress, never a final destination. Likewise, ­human rights atrocities rarely happen overnight. They occur in small steps, usually criticized by a brave few whose voices go unheeded. The telltale warning signs are social discontent (evident in armed conflict, widespread protests, or gaping inequalities), unresponsive governments (­whether ­because they are nondemo­cratic, legally weak, or other­wise unaccountable in a system of impunity and corruption), and institutionalized ideas that legitimate abuse u ­ nder certain conditions (from national security doctrines to ideas discriminating against groups on the basis of social identity). ­A fter the fact, understanding past violations is essential, both for promoting reconciliation and justice and for ensuring that historical memory protects ­future generations from similar atrocities and pain. The ­human rights changes that have swept across the region are cause for hope. Regional mechanisms are among the strongest in the world. Domestically, groups targeted for repression have championed the cause of ­human rights in the face of overwhelming duress—­from torture survivors to grieving relatives to marginalized groups. Canadian journalist Naomi Klein referred to ­these tensions when she described the rising power of indigenous movements in Latin Amer­i­ca: “Their power comes not from terror but from a new terror-­resistant strain of hope, one so sturdy it can take root in the midst of Colombia’s seemingly hopeless civil war. And if it can grow t­ here, it can take root anywhere.”3 Latin Amer­i­ca’s h ­ uman rights trajectory is rich and complex. The language of h ­ uman rights and the strategies deployed by its defenders have had transformative effects: empowering p ­ eople against state abuse or neglect, embedding new standards into institutional structures, and improving daily conditions. The politics of h ­ uman rights change serve as a mirror to the f­actors under­lying ­human rights abuse, reform, and the quest for justice everywhere. They expose the worst and the best that the region—­and

C onc lus ion 297 humanity—­has to offer. When the basic treatment of ­people is at stake, social strug­gles are inevitable, and change is pos­si­ble. Discussion Questions 1. How does the war on drugs undermine h ­ uman rights? Do critics exaggerate its negative consequences? 2. Does contemplating the f­uture of h ­ uman rights in Latin Amer­i­ca make one more hopeful or more concerned? Discuss. 3. What lessons, if any, do you draw from Latin Amer­i­ca for ­human rights activism in the United States? What are some of the most striking similarities and differences?

APPENDIX 1 Internship Opportunities

The following is a list of organ­izations focused ­either exclusively or primarily in or on Latin Amer­i­ca and accepting interns. International NGOs (like ­Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International) and intergovernmental organ­izations (like the UN and OAS) offer internship opportunities as well. For a listing of ­human rights internships in general, see the University of Minnesota H ­ uman Rights Program website (https://­cla​.­umn​ .­edu​/­human​-­rights​/­graduate​/­career​-­exploration). We do not include ­here any internship for which students must pay fees, but most of the internships listed below are uncompensated. We also do not list opportunities to volunteer abroad, which are plentiful. Students should seek out their study-­abroad offices to explore opportunities to study ­human rights or to intern or volunteer with ­human rights organ­izations in Latin Amer­i­ca. Amazon Watch. Location: Oakland, CA. https://­amazonwatch​.­org. Centro por la Justicia y el Derecho Internacional (CEJIL). Location: Washington, D.C.; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; San Jose, Costa Rica. https://­cejil​.­org. Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos. Location: Mexico City, Mexico. http://­cmdpdh​.­org. Cultural Survival. Location: Cambridge, Mass.; Santa Fe, N.M.; remote. www​.­culturalsurvival​.­org. Guatemala H ­ uman Rights Commission—­USA. Location: Washington, D.C.; Guatemala City. www​.­ghrc​-­usa​.­org.


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Inter-­A merican Commission on ­Human Rights. Location: Washington, D.C. www​.­cidh​.­org. Inter-­A merican Court for ­Human Rights. Location: San Jose, Costa Rica. www​.­corteidh​.­or​.­cr. Latin Amer­i­ca Working Group. Location: Washington, D.C. www​.­lawg​.­org. MADRE. Location: New York, N.Y. www​.­madre​.­org. Washington Office on Latin Amer­i­ca—­Sally Yudelman Internship. Location: Washington, D.C. www​.­wola​.­org. Witness for Peace. Location: Washington, D.C., and regional offices. http://­ witnessforpeace​.­org.

APPENDIX 2 Suggested Assignments for Instructors

Some version of the following assignments can be used in conjunction with the text. In some cases, students can draw on the resources listed at the end of each chapter to complete the assignment. 1. ­Human Rights Conditions. Groups of students are assigned a country. ­After reviewing the relevant entries from an annual h ­ uman rights report (e.g., Amnesty International), student groups summarize existing conditions for their assigned country and identify what they find most striking. Depending on the goals of the professor, the students might be required to engage in comparative analy­sis: How is this country like or unlike one of the countries covered in the course or text? The objective of this in-­class exercise is to demonstrate the con­temporary relevance of ­human rights violations and generate hypotheses about developments in other countries. 2. Testimonial Lit­er­a­ture. Students select a first-­person ­human rights account to read. The “Additional Reading” sections in this book offer numerous examples. In an essay or a pre­sen­ta­tion, students summarize the account, discuss how issues raised in the course (theoretical and case-­ specific) help to place the work in context, and identify the book’s lessons for the study of h ­ uman rights while revealing their own reactions to the text. 3. Art and Lit­er­a­ture. Alternatively, students might read a novel, poem, or play that grapples with ­human rights in Latin Amer­i­ca. Marjorie Agosín’s anthology Writing ­Toward Hope: The Lit­er­a­ture of H ­ uman Rights in


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Latin Amer­i­ca (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2006) is full of source material; see Agosín’s own work as well. Other recent additions to the field include Arturo Bolañ­o’s By Night in Chile (2003), Karina Sainz Borgos’s It Would Be Night in Caracas (2019), and Valeria Luiselli’s Lost ­Children Archive (2019). Or they might be encouraged to find a mural, painting, sculpture, song, or piece of per­for­mance art that speaks powerfully to the issues of h ­ uman rights in Latin Amer­i­ca and share it. Students might also analyze one or more photo­graphs depicting h ­ uman rights in the region, including one from this book. Alternatively, students could create a piece, an object, or a per­for­mance that expresses ­human rights themes. 4. News Journal. For part of the semester, students follow news from across Latin Amer­i­ca or from within a par­tic­u­lar country in the region. They summarize an article per week and, drawing on course material, discuss the major h ­ uman rights implications. Events surveyed do not have to be explic­itly related to ­human rights, since a partial goal of the exercise is for students to draw connections between other­wise disparate issues. If pos­si­ble, students should be encouraged to read foreign-­language newspapers. Instructors might provide access to the Latin American News Digest, a ser­vice that provides En­glish summaries of headlines from across Latin Amer­i­ca with links to the original articles. 5. Surveying Organ­izations. Students choose one or more h ­ uman rights organ­izations, ­either NGOs (international or domestic) or regional ­human rights bodies. Many pos­si­ble organ­izations are identified in this book. Students visit the organ­ization’s website and prepare an overview: its purpose, history, and activities, as well as its apparent strengths and weaknesses. Student pre­sen­ta­tions could show images or clips from the organ­ization’s website. Students should be encouraged to think critically about what issues the organ­ization does not cover, how it is funded, and so on. 6. Film Analy­sis. ­A fter viewing two films listed in the book or reading a case study and watching a relevant film, students write a short comparative essay. The emphasis should be on identifying the key ­human rights themes raised in the film(s) and/or chapter and discussing the student’s reactions. (In-­class film clips can also be shown very effectively throughout this course.) 7. Analytical Review. Students select an analytical reading addressing ­either h ­ uman rights violations or reforms. They summarize the argument

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and assess critically its substantive strengths and weaknesses. The assignment can be part of a take-­home essay exam. 8. Research Paper. Topics can focus, for example, on broad themes like the sources of ­human rights violations, the ­causes of ­human rights reform, or the challenges of truth and justice. Students are encouraged to undertake comparative analy­sis—of countries, time periods, or ­human rights issues—­and to draw on dif­fer­ent disciplines and explore countries not covered in the book. 9. Research Design. Rather than write a full research paper, students prepare a brief research proposal. They provide a central research question, a brief statement of its significance, a strategy for answering the question (e.g., cases, time periods), a tentative outline, and a working bibliography. Students are given an in-­class opportunity to peer review research designs. 10. In-­Class Debates. Student groups are assigned dif­fer­ent sides of controversial questions and asked to defend their assigned position. A general, out-­of-­character discussion follows the debate. The exercise works especially well with debates about the origins of ­human rights abuse (e.g., ­human nature versus structural conditions) or the desirability of truth commissions versus prosecution. Controversial current events often make for good debates as well—­e.g., How should the international community respond to the crisis in Venezuela? Does legalizing drugs reduce vio­lence? Should sex work be protected or eliminated? The possibilities are endless. 11. ­Legal Role Playing. Students are assigned dif­fer­ent roles, such as perpetrator, victim, h ­ uman rights activist, prosecutor, and so on. They are presented with a brief, hy­po­thet­i­cal scenario and asked to respond according to their assigned actor’s putative interests. Following role playing, students discuss any lessons learned, identifying the complex motives and strategic dilemmas facing actors. 12. Foreign Policy Opinion Essays (Op-­Eds). Students write a short op-ed, taking a foreign policy position on a con­temporary h ­ uman rights issue of their choice in Latin Amer­i­ca. The goal is to make a clear and succinct argument about what a foreign government or an international organ­ ization should do in response to a ­human rights prob­lem. Topics can be general or specific depending on a student’s interests. Students are encouraged to read op-ed pieces in major newspapers to replicate tone and style. 13. Exploring Qualitative Data Sources. Students are asked to visit a ­human rights database or truth commission report listed in the book.


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They pre­sent their reactions, including what they found in­ter­est­ing or problematic and how the data could be used to conduct ­human rights research. More specific exercises can be designed to probe the value and limits of ­human rights data. 14. Quantitative Data Sources and Digital Skills. A plethora of statistical data has become available in recent years, and many websites offer fascinating digital visualization tools students can easily master. Examples include the websites for Gapminder and the World Bank Open Data cata­ log. Assign each student a dif­fer­ent country or theme (e.g., ­women’s rights) and have them share with the class the most surprising or insightful data or trend they found. To develop and apply digital skills, encourage students to take the material from class and develop websites, timelines, interactive maps, and other related visualizations. As always, encourage them to be critical: What is revealed with ­t hese statistics and visualizations? Do they reflect bias or problematic assumptions? Do they make us care about the under­lying issue more than a power­f ul image or moving story of a single ­human rights victim might? This is a good opportunity to discuss “framing” and the campaign dimensions of h ­ uman rights campaigns. 15. Human Rights Advocacy Strategy. Working ­either individually or on teams, students should imagine themselves working on a ­human rights advocacy campaign. They should select the campaign, ­whether it is a global or local issue or one on campus. Have them develop a strategic plan, that is, a road map that articulates clear goals and concrete steps to achieve ­those goals. Be specific in the deliverables or outputs you w ­ ill expect from them in this exercise, which requires that students apply strategic thinking to design an effective advocacy campaign. 16. Commodity Chain. Assign individuals or small groups a product they regularly consume and that originates in Latin Amer­i­ca. Have them research ­labor conditions and the commodity chain linking the person who originally produced its raw ele­ments to them as consumers. What ­human rights issues are at stake? Examples of commodities one might begin with are bananas, cut flowers, choco­late, and coffee, but encourage your students to identify the Latin American products in their lives as a first step. An alternative assignment could be asking students to compare price and ­human rights implications between mass market and ethically produced products, and to consider what constitutes fair trade or ethically produced products.

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17. Experiential Learning. Students can learn about ­human rights activism by ­doing it themselves. Encourage students to dedicate a portion of their time over the semester to engaging in direct activism. Students might advocate for more ethically produced food in their cafeteria, attend protests, write a letter to a po­liti­cal representative or a newspaper advocating more humane policies t­oward Latin Amer­i­ca or Latinx immigrants, or volunteer with a relevant local organ­ization. Have students share their experiences in class. What response did they get? What would help them become more effective advocates for h ­ uman rights in the ­future?


Introduction Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2016–2017: The State of the World’s ­Human Rights (London: Amnesty International, 2017). 2 Kathryn Sikkink, Evidence for Hope: Making ­ Human Rights Work in the 21st ­Century (Prince­ton, N.J.: Prince­ton University Press, 2017). 3 For the latter claim, see, especially, Henry Shue, Basic Rights: Subsistence, Af­ fluence, and U.S. Foreign Policy (Prince­ton, N.J.: Prince­ton University Press, 1996). 4 John Charles Chasteen, Born in Blood and Fire: A Concise History of Latin Amer­i­ca, 4th ed. (New York: Norton, 2016), chap. 4. 5 William J. Talbott, Which Rights Should Be Universal? (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), chap. 4. 6 This section draws on Paolo Carozzo, “From Conquest to Constitutions: Retrieving a Latin American Tradition of the Idea of ­Human Rights,” ­Human Rights Quarterly 25, 2 (May 2003): 281–313. 7 Ibid., 301. 8 Discussion of the UDHR in this section is based on Mary Ann Glendon, “The Forgotten Crucible: The Latin American Influence on the Universal H ­ uman Rights Idea,” Harvard ­Human Rights Journal 16 (Spring 2003): 27. 9 Sikkink, Evidence for Hope, 70. 10 Johannes Morsink, The Universal Declaration of ­Human Rights: Origins, Drafting, and Intent (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999), 130. 11 Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2008: The State of the World’s ­Human Rights (London: Amnesty International, 2008), 11. 1

Chapter 1 This view is similar to “primordial” arguments about ethnic conflict, often held by governments and laypeople. For the latter applied to Latin Amer­i­ca, see Deborah  J. Yashar, Contesting Citizenship in Latin Amer­i­ca: The Rise of Indigenous Movements (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 9–11. 1


no t e s t o pag e s 2 4 –51

Report of the Chilean National Commission on Truth and Reconciliation, 2 vols. (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1993), Part III, chap. 4. 3 In Radical Evil on Trial (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1996), Carlos Santiago Nino argues that ­people commit evil acts, but ­human rights prosecutions can help prevent ­future abuses. 4 For example, Howard  J. Wiarda, “The Strug­gle for Democracy and ­Human Rights in Latin Amer­i­ca: ­Toward a New Conceptualization,” in The Continuing Strug­gle for Democracy in Latin Amer­i­ca, ed. Howard Wiarda (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1980). See also Rebecca Root, “How Wiarda Got H ­ uman Rights Wrong,” Polity, October 2018, 676–683. For a broader overview, see Hugo Fruhling, “Po­liti­cal Culture and Gross ­Human Rights Violations in Latin Amer­i­ca,” in ­Human Rights in Cross-­Cultural Perspectives: A Quest for Consensus, ed. Abdullahi Ahmed An-­Na‘im (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1995). 5 Samuel  P. Huntington, “The Hispanic Challenge,” Foreign Policy, March/ April 2004, 30–45, and Who Are We? The Challenges to Amer­i­ca’s National Iden­ tity (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005). 6 See, for example, Marc Lacey, “­A fter Protests, Haitian Leader Announces Rice Subsidies,” New York Times, 13 April 2008. 7 Brian Loveman, For la Patria: Politics and the Armed Forces in Latin Amer­i­ca. Wilmington, Del.: Rowman & Littlefield, 1999, xx. 8 Bello, “Murderous Latin American Police Need to Start Policing Themselves,” Economist, October 26, 2017, n.p. 9 Carlos Osorio and Kathleen Costar, eds., National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book 133, www​.­g wu​.­edu​/­~nsarchiv​/­NSAEBB​/­NSAEBB133​/­index​.­htm. 10 Kathryn Sikkink, Mixed Signals: U.S. H ­ uman Rights Policy in Latin Amer­i­ca (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2004). 11 See Lesley Gill, The School of the Amer­i­cas: Military Training and Po­liti­cal Vio­ lence in the Amer­i­cas (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2004). 2

Chapter 2 Impunity refers to a po­liti­cal situation in which h ­ uman rights violators go unpunished; immunity occurs when specific individuals are legally exempt from prosecution. 2 Report of the Chilean National Commission on Truth and Reconciliation, 2 vols. (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1993), Part III, chap. 4. 3 A similar point is made in Alexandra Barahona de Brito, “Truth, Justice, Memory, and Democ­ratization in the Southern Cone,” in The Politics of Memory: Tran­ sitional Justice in Demo­cratizing Socie­ties, ed. Alexandra Barahona de Brito, Carmen González Enríquez, and Paloma Aguilar (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001). 4 Archdiocese of São Paulo, Brasil: Nunca Mais (Petrópolis: Vozes, 1985), ­later released as Archdiocese of São Paulo, Torture in Brazil: A Shocking Report on the Pervasive Use of Torture by Brazilian Military Governments, 1964–1979, trans. 1

no t e s t o pag e s 58 – 88


Jaime Wright (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1986); H ­ uman Rights Secretary of Brazil, Direito á Memória e á Verdade (The Right to Memory and Truth), August 2007. 5 Denis Martínez and Luisa Gómez, “A Promise to Be Fulfilled: Reparations for Victims of the Armed Conflict in Guatemala” (Belfast: Reparations, Responsibility & Victimhood in Transitional Socie­ties, 2019). 6 “Country Report—­Honduras,” in Freedom House, Countries at the Crossroads 2007 (New York: Freedom House, 2007), www​.­freedomhouse​.­org. 7 Mireya Navarro, “Guatemalan Army Waged ‘Genocide,’ New Report Finds,” New York Times, 26 February 1999, A1. 8 Kathryn Sikkink, The Justice Cascade (New York: Norton, 2011). 9 For more on this case, see Center for Justice and Accountability, https://­cja​.­org​ /­what​-­we​-­do​/­litigation​/­cabello​-­v​-­fernandez​-­larios. 10 Stephen Schnably, “The Transformation of ­Human Rights Litigation: The Alien Tort Statute, the Anti-­Terrorism Act, and JASTA,” University of Miami International and Comparative Law Review 285 (August 2017), 285–440. 11 Ellen Lutz and Kathryn Sikkink, “The Justice Cascade: The Evolution and Impact of Foreign ­Human Rights ­Trials in Latin Amer­i­ca,” Chicago Journal of International Law 2, 1 (2001): 1–33, and Sikkink, The Justice Cascade.

Chapter 3 Carlos Osorio and Kathleen Costar, eds., National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book 133, www​.­g wu​.­edu​/­~nsarchiv​/­NSAEBB​/­NSAEBB133​/­index​.­htm. 2 The discussion of Argentina ­here draws from Kathryn Sikkink, The Justice Cas­ cade (New York: W. W. Norton, 2011), chap. 3. 3 ­Human Rights Watch, “World Report 2019,” www​.­hrw​.­org​/­world​-­report​/­2019​ /­country​-­chapters​/­argentina. 4 Ibid. 5 Olagier Benaventes Bustos, Talca Regiment, cited in Jorge Escalante Hidalgo, La Misión era matar: El juicio a la caravana Pinochet-­Arellano (Santiago: LOM, 2000); trans. from Memoria y justicia, a website devoted to Chilean ­legal cases against Pinochet, www​.­memoriayjusticia​.­cl​/­english​/­en​_­focus​-­caravan​.­html. 6 A transcript of the conversation between Kissinger and Pinochet can be found ­here: https://­nsarchive2​.­g wu​.­edu​/­NSAEBB​/­NSAEBB437​/­docs​/­Doc%2010%20​ -­%20Kissinger​-­Pinochet%20memcon%20Jun%208%201976​.­pdf. 7 This was the date the United Kingdom had ratified the Convention Against Torture. According to the “double criminality rule” in international law, p ­ eople can be extradited only for actions that are crimes in both the requesting state and the state where the criminal is located. 8 Roger Burbach, The Pinochet Affair: State Terrorism and Global Justice (London: Zed Books, 2004), 124. 9 Cath Collins with Boris Hau, “Chile: Incremental Truth, Late Justice,” in Elin Skaar, Jemima García-­Godos, and Cath Collins, eds., Transitional Justice in 1


no t e s t o pag e s 88 –137

Latin Amer­i­ca: The Uneven Road from Impunity ­Towards Accountability (New York: Routledge, 2016), 140. 10 Cristián Correa, “Two Judgements in Chile Mark Pro­gress in Prosecuting State Agents for Enforced Disappearances,” International Center for Transitional Justice, 19 June 2017. Accessed 5 July 2021. www​.­ictj​.­org​/­news​/­judgments​ -­chile​-­progress​-­prosecuting​-­state​-­disappearances.

Chapter 4 Victoria Sanford, Buried Secrets: Truth and ­Human Rights in Guatemala (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003). 2 Jemima García-­Godos and Luis Raul Salvado, “Guatemala: Truth and Memory on Trial,” in Elin Skaar, Jemima García-­Godos, and Cath Collins, eds., Transitional Justice in Latin Amer­i­ca (New York: Routledge, 2016): 203–26; and Denis Martínez and Luisa Gómez, “A Promise to Be Fulfilled: Reparations for Victims of the Armed Conflict in Guatemala” (Belfast: Reparations, Responsibility & Victimhood in Transitional Socie­ties, 2019). 3 Inter-­A merican Commission on ­Human Rights, Situation of ­Human Rights in Guatemala (Washington, D.C.: Organ­ization of American States, 2017), 27–28. 4 World Bank. Indigenous Latin Amer­i­ca in the Twenty-­First ­Century: The First De­cade (Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 2015), 59. 5 Ibid. 6 Transcript of Donald Trump’s speech announcing his candidacy for the presidency, 16 June 2015. https://­time​.­com​/­3923128​/­donald​-­trump​-­announcement​-­speech. 7 Javier Treviño-­R angel, “Superfluous Lives: Undocumented Mi­g rants Traveling in Mexico,” in Alejandro Anaya-­Muñoz and Barbara Frey, eds., Mexico’s ­Human Rights Crisis (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019), 107–23. 1

Chapter 5 Death toll comes from Colombia’s Observatorio de Memoria y Conflicto. Quoted in Joe Parkin Daniels, “Colombian Army Killed Thousands More Civilians than Reported, Study Claims,” Guardian, 8 May 2018. 3 ­Human Rights Watch, “Colombia 2018.” 4 United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Global Trends: Forced Displace­ ment in 2018. Released June 2019. Available at www​.­unhcr​.­org​/­5d08d7ee7​.­pdf. 5 Comisión de la Verdad, Informe Final, 9 vols. (Lima: CVR, 2003). 6 Montesa’s case is recorded in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Final Report (ibid.); part of her oral testimony is included in the 2005 documentary State of Fear (see Filmography). 7 Nancy Postero, “Articulation and Fragmentation: Indigenous Politics in Bolivia,” in Nancy Grey Postero and Leon Zamosc, eds., The Strug­gle for Indigenous Rights in Latin Amer­i­ca (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 2004). 1 2

no t e s t o pag e s 137 –169


Ibid., 195. Ursula Durand Ochoa, The Po­liti­cal Empowerment of the Cocaleros of Bolivia and Peru (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014). 10 Oscar Olivera, Cochabamba! W ­ ater ­Water in Bolivia (Cambridge, Mass.: South End Press, 2004). 11 “Morales Inaugural Speech: Excerpts,” BBC News, 22 January 2006. Available at http://­news​.­bbc​.­co​.­uk​/­2​/­hi​/­americas​/­4638030​.­stm. 12 Linda  C. Farthing and Benjamin  H. Kohl, Evo’s Bolivia: Continuity and Change (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2014), 40. 13 Nancy Postero, “Introduction: Negotiating Indigeneity,” Latin American and Ca­rib­bean Ethnic Studies 8, 2 (2013): 107–21. 14 Farthing and Kohl, Evo’s Bolivia. 15 World Bank Group, Indigenous Latin Amer­i­ca in the Twenty-­First ­Century: The First De­cade (Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 2015), 8, 70. 16 Luis Enrique Lopez, “Indigenous Intercultural Bilingual Education in Latin Amer­i­ca: Widening Gaps Between Policy and Practice,” in The Education of In­ digenous Citizens in Latin Amer­i­ca, ed. Regina Cortina (Bristol, UK: Multilingual ­Matters, 2014), 68. 17 John-­Andrew McNeish, “Extraction, Protest and Indigeneity in Bolivia: The TIPNIS Effect,” Latin American and Ca­rib­bean Ethnic Studies 8, 2 (2013): 221–42. 18 Freedom House, “Freedom on the Net 2018,” https://­freedomhouse​.­org​/­report​ /­freedom​-­net​/­2018​/­rise​-­digital​-­authoritarianism 19 United Nations High Commissioner for ­Human Rights, “Annual Report to the H ­ uman Rights Council: H ­ uman Rights in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela,” 5 July 2019. 8 9

Chapter 6 Michael Ratner, “How We Closed the Guantanamo HIV Camp: The Intersection of Politics and Litigation,” Harvard ­Human Rights Journal 11 (1998): 187–220. 2 This section draws partly on Mayra Gómez, “Patterns of ­Human Rights Violations in Cuba,” in ­Human Rights in Cuba, El Salvador, and Nicaragua: A So­cio­log­i­cal Perspective on ­Human Rights Abuse (New York: Routledge, 2003). 3 United National Development Program, ­Human Rights Development Reports, 2017 data. http://­hdr​.­undp​.­org​/­en. 4 “Major Episodes of Po­liti­cal Vio­lence, 1946–2019.” https://­w ww​.­systemicpeace​ .­org​/­warlist​/­warlist​.­htm. 5 Global Witness, “At What Cost? 2017.” Available at https://­w ww​.­globalwitness​ .­org​/­en​/­campaigns​/­environmental​-­activists​/­defenders​-­annual​-­report​/­. 6 Amnesty International, “Brazil 2017–2018” (New York: Amnesty International, 2018). 7 Cleuci de Oliveira, “Brazil’s New Prob­lem with Blackness,” Foreign Policy, 5 April 2017. 1


no t e s t o pag e s 178 –189

Chapter 7 Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Legislation, Feminist Theory, and Antiracist Politics,” University of Chicago ­Legal Forum (Chicago: University of Chicago Law School, 1989), 139–68. 2 Quoted in David Rieff, “­A fter the Caudillo,” New York Times 18 November 2007. 3 Jennifer M. Piscopo, “States as Gender Equality Activists,” Latin American Pol­ itics and Society 57, 3 (Fall 2015): 27–49. 4 UN ­Women, Pro­gress of the World’s ­Women, Regional Fact Sheet for Latin Amer­i­ca and the Ca­rib­bean, 2019–20. 5 Amalia L. Cabezas, “Latin American and Ca­rib­bean Sex Workers: Gains and Challenges in the Movement,” Anti-­Trafficking Review 12 (2019): 37–56. 6 Amnesty International, “ ‘What I’m D ­ oing Is Not a Crime’: The H ­ uman Cost of Criminalizing Sex Work in the City of Buenos Aires, Argentina,” 2016. Available at www​.­amnesty​.­org​/­download​/­Documents​/­A MR1340422016ENGLISH​.­PDF. 7 Amnesty International, “International Policy on State Obligations to Re­spect, Protect and Fulfil the H ­ uman Rights of Sex Workers,” 2016. Available at www​ .­amnesty​.­org​/­download​/­Documents​/­POL3040622016ENGLISH​.­PDF. 8 Cecília MacDowell Santos, ­Women’s Police Stations: Gender, Vio­lence and Justice in São Paulo, Brazil (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005). 9 For example, a survey of thousands of 15–25 year olds in eight Latin American countries found that 86 ­percent said they would not intervene if a male friend hit his female partner, and that “no-­one should interfere in fights between a c­ ouple”; 65  ­percent of male respondents said ­women say “no” to sex when they ­really mean “yes”; 40 ­percent of male and 31 ­percent of female respondents agreed that “if a ­woman gets drunk, then a man can have sexual relations with her even if she is unconscious.” Oxfam, Breaking the Mould: Changing Belief Systems and Gender Norms to Eliminate Vio­lence Against ­Women in Latin Amer­i­ca and the Ca­ rib­be­an (Oxfam, 2018). 10 Emily J. Kirk, Cuba’s Gay Revolution: Normalizing Sexual Diversity Through a Health-­Based Approach (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2017). 11 Omar Encarnación, Out in the Periphery: Latin Amer­i­ca’s Gay Rights Revolution (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016): chs. 1 and 2. This paragraph and the next two are based on Encarnación’s research. 12 Quoted in ibid., 44. 13 Pew Research Group, “Religion in Latin Amer­i­ca,” 2014. Available at www​ .­pewforum​.­org​/­2014​/­11​/­13​/­religion​-­in​-­latin​-­america, 14 Jordi Díez, The Politics of Gay Marriage in Latin Amer­i­ca: Argentina, Chile, and Mexico (Cambridge, Mass.: Cambridge University Press, 2015): 1, and I/A Court  H.R., Case of Atala Riffo and d ­ aughters v. Chile. Merits, Reparations, and Costs. Judgment of 24 February 2012. 15 Díez, The Politics of Gay Marriage, 21. 1

no t e s t o pag e s 190 – 216


Inter-­A merican Commission on ­Human Rights, “Vio­lence Against LGBTI Persons,” 2015, 15. Accessed 1 August  2018 at www​.­oas​.­org​/­en​/­iachr​/­reports​ /­pdfs​/­violencelgbtipersons​.­pdf. 17 Díez, The Politics of Gay Marriage, ch. 4. 18 Alison Brysk, From Tribal Village to Global Village: Indian Rights and Inter­ national Relations in Latin Amer­ i­ ca (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2000), and Alison Brysk, ed., Globalization and H ­ uman Rights (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002). 19 Nancy Grey Postero and Leon Zamosc, eds., The Strug­gle for Indigenous Rights in Latin Amer­i­ca (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 2006). 20 World Bank Group, Indigenous Latin Amer­i­ca in the Twenty-­First C ­ entury: The First De­cade (Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 2015), 10. 21 Ibid., 6. 22 Ibid., 6, 10–11, 30. 23 Ibid., 11–12, 27. 24 Ibid., 8. 25 Center for Justice and International Law, “Sarayaku: In Defense of Territory.” Available at www​.­amazonteam​.­org​/­maps​/­sarayaku​-­en​/­. 26 Global Witness, “At What Cost? Irresponsible business and the murder of land and environment defenders in 2017.” Available at www​.­globalwitness​.­org​/­en​ /­campaigns​/­environmental​-­activists​/­at​-­what​-­cost. 27 World Bank, Indigenous Latin Amer­i­ca, 75. 16

Chapter 8 This and the next four paragraphs draw on the UN High Commissioner for ­ uman Rights, “Frequently Asked Questions About Economic, Social and CulH tural Rights” (Geneva, Switzerland: United Nations, no year). 2 “Righting Wrongs,” Economist, 18 August  2001, and “Many Rights, Some Wrong,” Economist, 24 March 2007. 3 Octávio Luiz Motta Ferraz, “Health in the Courts of Latin Amer­i­ca,” Health and ­Human Rights Journal, 20 June 2018. 4 World Food Program, “Guatemala,” www​.­w fp​.­org​/­countries​/­guatemala. 5 The same cannot be said for the Ca­rib­bean, where the rate went from 27 ­percent to 20 ­percent during that period; one in five residents of the Ca­rib­bean does not have enough to eat. This is comparable to the level of food insecurity in sub-­ Saharan Africa. 6 World Health Organ­ization, World Report on Disability, 2011. 7 Diana Enriquez, Sebastián Rojas Cabal, and Miguel A. Centeno, “Latin Amer­ i­ca’s COVID-19 Nightmare,” Foreign Affairs, 1 September 2020. 8 “Home Truths,” Economist, 10 September 2020. 9 This paragraph and the next draw on a UN Development Group report, “Challenges and Strategies for Sustainable Development in Latin Amer­i­ca and the Ca­rib­bean” (Panama: UN Sustainable Development Group, 2018). 1


no t e s t o pag e s 223– 227

Chapter 9 “Activist” was the more commonly used term in the twentieth c­ entury, but a­ fter the UN Declaration on ­Human Rights Defenders in 1998, the term “­human rights defender” became popu­lar. It has the advantage of being broad enough to include (among o­ thers) intergovernmental organ­izations, government agencies, and civil servants, as well as voluntary and professional activists. The Office of the High Commissioner for H ­ uman Rights provides a useful overview of the concept of ­human rights defender at www​.­ohchr​.­org​/­EN​/­Issues​/­SRHR​Defenders​/­Pages​/­Defender​.­aspx. 2 See Jessica Stites Mor, ed., ­Human Rights and Transnational Solidarity in Cold War Latin Amer­i­ca (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2013), which emphasizes solidarity networks between and among developing countries. 3 Front Line Defenders, “Global Analy­sis 2018,” www​.­frontlinedefenders​.­org​/­en​ /­resource​-­publication​/­global​-­analysis​-­2018. 4 Amnesty International, Bulletin on H ­ uman Rights Defenders in Latin Amer­i­ca and the Ca­rib­be­an, 15 March 2002. 5 Freedom House, “Freedom on the Net 2018,” https://­freedomhouse​.­org​/­report​ /­freedom​-­net​/­2018​/­rise​-­digital​-­authoritarianism. 6 Sonia Cardenas, Chains of Justice: The Global Rise of State Institutions for H ­ uman Rights (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014). 7 Peter DeShazo and Juan Enrique Vargas, Judicial Reform in Latin Amer­i­ca: An Assessment, Policy Papers on the Amer­i­cas 17, Study 2 (Washington, D.C.: Center for Strategic and International Studies, September 2006). 8 Sara Snyder, From Selma to Moscow: How H ­ uman Rights Activists Transformed U.S. Foreign Policy (New York: Columbia University Press, 2018), 170. 9 Peterson Institute for International Economics, “Summary of Economic Sanctions Episodes, 1914–2006,” https://­piie​.­com​/­summary​-­economic​-­sanctions​-­episodes​ -­1914​-­2006. 10 Kathryn Sikkink, Mixed Signals: U.S. H ­ uman Rights Policy and Latin Amer­i­ca (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2004). 1

Chapter 10 Congressional Research Ser­vice Report for Congress, “Article 98 Agreements and Sanctions on U.S. Foreign Aid to Latin Amer­i­ca,” 10 April 2006. 2 Treaties “enter into force” when a prespecified number of states ratify—­not just sign—­them. 3 Argentina, Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ec­ua­dor, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, and Uruguay. Trinidad and Tobago removed itself from the jurisdiction of the court, as did Venezuela. 4 Regional h ­ uman rights bodies have been created in the twenty-­fi rst ­c entury in the ­Middle East (the Arab ­Human Rights Committee) and Southeast Asia (Association of Southeast Asian Nations Intergovernmental Commission on ­Human Rights). However, neither has a complaint mechanism nor a court. 1

no t e s t o pag e s 235– 296


Tom J. Farer, “The Rise of the Inter-­A merican ­Human Rights Regime: No Longer a Unicorn, Not Yet an Ox,” ­Human Rights Quarterly 20, 4 (1998): 965–1035. 5

Chapter 11 Kathryn Sikkink, Evidence for Hope: Making H ­ uman Rights Work in the 21st ­Century (Prince­ton, N.J.: Prince­ton University Press, 2017), ch. 5. 2 The scholars responsible for the Po­liti­cal Terror Scale recognize this fact as well, and they have recently developed a second scale, called the Societal Vio­lence Score (SVS). Latin American countries score worse on the SVS than on the PTS. Mark Gibney, Linda Cornett, Reed Wood, Peter Haschke, Daniel Arnon, and Attilio Pisanò. The Po­liti­cal Terror Scale 1976–2017. 2018. www​.­politicalterrorscale​ .­org. 3 “Latin Amer­i­ca Is World’s Most Violent Region,” Wall Street Journal, 11 April 2014. Data from United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. 4 Margaret Keck and Kathryn Sikkink, Activists Beyond Borders: Advocacy Net­ works in International Politics (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1998). 5 Ibid. 6 Ibid. 1

Conclusion “COVID-19  in Latin Amer­i­ca: A Humanitarian Crisis,” Lancet, 7 November 2020. See also Julie Turkewitz and Sofia Villamil, “In Latin Amer­i­ca, the Pandemic Threatens Equality Like Never Before,” New York Times, 11 July 2020; Anatoly Kurmanaev, “Latin Amer­i­ca Is Facing a ‘Decline of Democracy’ ­Under the Pandemic,” New York Times, 29 July 2020; and Julie Turkewitz, “Pandemic Drives Millions from Latin Amer­i­ca’s Universities,” New York Times, 4 September 2020. 2 Cardoso’s address to the French National Assembly, quoted in Carlos Fuentes, “You Scare Us: Bush Is Giving Latin Amer­i­ca the Willies,” Los Angeles Times, 26 September 2004. 3 Referring to an indigenous community in Cauca, southwestern Colombia. Naomi Klein, “The Threat of Hope in Latin Amer­i­ca,” Nation, 4 November 2005. 1


Page numbers in italics indicate figures; ­t hose with a t indicate ­tables. abortion, 209–10, 255 Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo (Grand­mothers of the Plaza de Mayo), 57, 72–73, 76, 226 Accomarca massacre, 129 Acteal massacre, 108 activists, local, 223–30, 282; use of technology by, 232–35 “acts of repudiation,” 159, 160 affirmative action in Brazil, 169–71 Afro-­descendant populations, 10, 168–69, 209 Aguila, Gorki, 161 AIDS, 153, 188, 202 Aldana, Thelma, 106 Alfonsín, Raúl, 76 Alien Tort Statute, 62, 63 Allende, Salvador, 78 Amazon Frontlines, 195 Amazon rainforest, 165, 171, 193–94, 216–17, 232 American Acad­emy of Pediatrics, 115 American Association for the Advancement of Science, 76 American Civil Liberties Union, 115 American Convention on H ­ uman Rights: and Ciudad Juárez femicide, 110; drafting of, 4, 260; and Inter-­A merican Court of ­Human Rights, 263, 264; and LGBTQ rights, 188 American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, 15, 16, 160, 258 “Amer­i­cas Watch,” 75 Amnesty International, 235–36; and Berenson trial, 267; criticism of Chile by, 74; and ESC rights, 201; and femicide,

110, 231, 287; and Pinochet prosecution, 85; and Po­liti­cal Terror Scale, 276; and prisoners of conscience, 75, 255; on role of Latin Amer­i­ca in h ­ uman rights promotion, 18; and sex workers, 182; on vio­lence in Latin Amer­i­ca, 2 amnesty laws: in Argentina, 76; in Chile, 84, 86; and forced disappearances, 86; in Guatemala, 106; as inapplicable to crimes against humanity, 77–78; for paramilitaries, 127–28; in Peru, 131, 132; as unconstitutional, 98 Andean Commission of Jurists (Comisión Andina de Juristas, CAJ), 237 Andean Counterdrug Initiative, 42 Andean region, 233. See also Bolivia; Colombia; Ec­ua­dor; Peru; Venezuela animosity assumption of h ­ uman rights, 24 anti-­communism: as exclusionary ideology, 32, 44; and SOA, 38–39; U.S. support of, 81, 96, 159. See also Cold War antidiscrimination laws, 191 Anti-­Discrimination Movement of Liberation (MAL), 190 anti-­terrorism legislation, 33–34, 129–30, 134 Árbenz Guzmán, Jacobo, 99 Archdiocese of São Paulo, 51 Arellano Stark, Sergio, 79 Arendt, Hannah, 26 Arevalo, Juan José, 99 Argentina, 69, 70–78, 74; abortion in, 209; amnesty laws in, 76; Catholic Church in, 229; coups in, 70; death squads in, 70–71; dirty war of, 38, 70–75, 226, 257;

318 I n de x Argentina (continued) disappearances in, 227; femicide in, 184; ­human rights accountability in, 75–78; ­human rights organ­izations in, 72–75, 186, 230; Junta Trial, 256–57; LGBTQ rights in, 186–88, 190–91; po­liti­cal terror in, 273t, 275, 275t; protests in, 28, 74; public memorials in, 60; reparations programs, 57, 77; security threats in, 30; sex work in, 181; torture in, 255; truth commissions in, 51, 52t, 54, 55, 76; violations against c­ hildren in, 71–72; ­women in politics in, 179 Argentine Anticommunist Alliance, 70 Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team. See Equipo Argentino de Antropología Forense (Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team) Aristide, Jean-­Bertrand, 152, 153 armed forces. See militaries arpilleras (tapestries), 231 artists as h ­ uman rights defenders, 230–31 assassinations: of Letelier, 62, 81, 82; of Mendes, 165; of Moïse, 155; of Romero, 38, 97, 228 assembly, freedom of, 159 association, freedom of, 160 Association of Relatives of the Detained-­ Disappeared in Chile, 227 asylum, 43, 114–15, 145, 152. See also displaced ­people; immigration control; migration; refugees Atala, Karen, 188 Atlacatl Battalion of the Salvadoran Army, 98 AUC. See Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (United Self-­Defense Forces of Colombia, AUC) authoritarian states: and homo­sexuality, 186; U.S. support of, 37 Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (United Self-­Defense Forces of Colombia, AUC), 126, 127–28 Ayala Lasso, José, 255 Aylwin, Patricio, 84, 86 Aylwin Doctrine, 86 Aymara ­people, 136, 141 Ayotzinapa murders, 51, 112 Bachelet, Michelle, 89, 180, 231, 255 Ban Ki-­Moon, 155 Barrios, Yassmin, 104 Barrios Altos massacre, 130, 131, 134

Batista, Fulgencio, 158 Battalion 3-16 (death squad), 38 Bechtel (construction firm), 138–39 Belaunde Terry, Fernando, 135t Belém do Pará Convention (Inter-­A merican Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Vio­lence Against ­Women), 110, 182 Belize, indigenous lands in, 194 Belo Monte mega-­dam proj­ect, 216–17 Bensouda, Fatou, 258 Berenson, Lori, 265, 267 Bernardino, Minerva, 17 Biden, Joe, 116 bilateral immunity agreements, 257–58 birthright citizenship, 155–56 Black Spring, 160 Bolívar, Simón, 14, 143 Bolivarian Revolution, 283 Bolivia, 123, 136–42, 140; constitution of, 139, 141; indigenous groups in, 141, 192, 193, 196; on Po­liti­cal Terror Scale, 275t; truth commissions in, 51, 52t; vio­lence against protesters in, 283; “war on drugs” in, 123, 138; ­women in politics in, 179 Bolsa Familia (CCT program), 213 Bolsonaro, Jair, 168, 171, 212, 284 boomerang effect, 279, 282 border walls, 115 Brasil: Nunca Mais (Archdiocese of São Paulo report), 51 Brazil, 150–51, 164–71, 166; affirmative action in, 169–71; Afro-­descendant population in, 10, 168–69; artists in, 231; Catholic Church in, 229; CCTs in, 213; ­children’s rights in, 214; and colonialism, 151, 168; compensation programs in, 58; corruption in, 167, 171, 241; and Covid-19, 212, 294; domestic vio­lence in, 171, 183, 184; education in, 169, 212; hydroelectric power in, 216–17; indigenous rights in, 171; in­equality in, 164, 169–71, 207; land reform in, 164–65, 284; LGBTQ rights in, 188–90; national security doctrines in, 164; police in, 166–68, 171, 239–40; po­liti­cal terror in, 273t, 275, 275t; poverty in, 166, 166; prisons in, 167–68; risks for ­human rights defenders in, 195, 224; slavery in, 11, 151, 168–69; “street youth” in, 166, 214; truth commissions in, 51, 53t; UN Special Rapporteur on torture in, 254; urban vio­lence in, 166–67; Venezuelan

I n de x 319 mi­grants in, 243; “war on drugs” in, 283; ­women’s police stations in, 182–83 Brodsky, Fernando, 69 Brodsky, Marcelo, 60, 69 Buergenthal, Thomas, 263–64 Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), 156 Bureau of Democracy, ­Human Rights, and ­L abor, 243 Bureau of ­Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, 243–44 Bush, George H. W., 39 Bush, George W., 111, 143, 257 Cabello, Winston, 62 Calderón, Felipe, 111 Calle 18 (18th Street) gang, 42, 105 cameras, 233–34 campesinos, 264 Canada, pressure on Latin American countries by, 242 Candelária massacre, 214 Carandiru massacre, 167 “caravan of death,” 79 Cardoso, Fernando Henrique, 165, 295 CARE (organ­ization), 237 Ca­rib­bean region, 150. See also Brazil; Cuba; Haiti Cartagena Declaration on Refugees, 115, 145 Car­ter, Jimmy, 74, 97 Castro, Fidel, 38, 158–60, 162 Castro, Raúl, 162 Catholic Church, 100, 102, 187, 229 CCTs (conditional cash transfers), 213 censorship, 144, 159, 164, 234–35 Center for International Justice and International Law (CEJIL), 282 Central Amer­i­c a, 105. See also Costa Rica; El Salvador; Guatemala; Honduras; Nicaragua Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), 99 Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (Center for ­L egal and Social Studies, CELS), 74 Centro Nacional de Información (CNI), 83 Chamorro, Violeta, 96 Chávez, César, 291 Chávez, Hugo, 208, 234 Chiapas region, Mexico, 13, 107 child care, access to, 181 child ­labor, 213–14, 215 child mortality, 160, 208–10 ­children: and education, 213; in the FARC, 125; ­human rights violations against,

71–72; sexual exploitation of, 214; and UNICEF, 253–54 Chile, 69, 78–88; amnesty laws in, 84, 86; artists in, 230–31; Catholic Church in, 229; constitutional assembly in, 88; coups in, 37, 78; development of ­human rights norms, 16; education in, 214–15; female presidents in, 89; gender parity in, 88, 180; ­human rights accountability in, 83–88; ­human rights cases in, 87–88; ­human rights groups in, 224, 236; international scrutiny of, 82–83; judicial reform in, 239; LGBTQ rights in, 188, 189; life expectancy in, 208; po­liti­cal terror in, 273t, 275, 275t; public memorials in, 59–60; reparation programs in, 57, 84; security threats in, 30; torture in, 255; truth commissions in, 51, 52t; vio­lence against protesters in, 283 Chilean National Commission on Truth and Reconciliation, 80 China, Internet censorship in, 234–35 cholera, 154–55 Ciocchini, María Clara, 71 Ciudad Juárez, femicide in, 108–10, 184, 227–28, 231, 236, 262, 278 civil and po­liti­c al rights as negative rights, 200, 201 civil wars, 95; in El Salvador, 97–98; in Guatemala, 99 climate change, 216 Clinton, Bill, 153, 154 cocaine, 123, 129 cocalero (coca grower) movement, 138, 139 coca production, 41–42, 123, 127–29, 138, 140, 141 coefficient of ­human in­equality, 205t coercion, 6, 29, 39–41. See also torture Cold War: civil and po­liti­c al rights during, 200; and disappearances, 263; and exclusionary ideologies, 32, 284; role of U.S. in region during, 37–38, 96, 285. See also anti-­communism Colina Group, 131–32 Colombia, 123–29; artists in, 231; displaced ­people in, 144, 253; hope in, 296; ­human rights abuses by military, 126–27; ­human rights defenders in, 224; ­human rights transformation in, 288; ICC in, 258, 259; indigenous politics in, 196; open-­source software in, 233; paramilitaries in, 126; peace agreements in, 127–29; po­liti­cal

320 I n de x Colombia (continued) terror in, 273t, 275t; relatives of the dis­appeared in, 227; same-­sex marriage in, 188; security threats in, 30; transitional justice in, 238; truth commissions in, 53t; Venezuelan mi­grants in, 243, 294; vio­lence against protesters in, 283; “war on drugs” in, 41–42, 123, 126 colonialism: and Bolivia, 136; and Brazil, 151, 168; of Ca­rib­bean region, 150; and Guatemala, 99; and Haiti, 151; and Puerto Rico, 163; and racism, 35; roots of h ­ uman rights abuse in, 10, 15 Columbus, Christopher, 151 Commission for Historical Clarification (Guatemala), 52t, 101–3 Commission for the Clarification of Truth, Coexistence and Non-­Repetition (Colombia), 53t Commission on the Truth for El Salvador (El Salvador), 52t Committee of Campesino Unity (CUC), 100 Committee of Relatives of the Detained-­ Disappeared, 227 Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 211 communist regimes, 158–59, 200. See also anti-­communism; Cold War compensation programs, 57–59, 132. See also memorials, public; reparation programs conditional cash transfers (CCTs), 213 Condor-­Tel, 82 Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ec­ua­dor (CONAIE), 282 Confederation of Indigenous ­People of Eastern Bolivia (CIDOB), 137 Constituent Assembly, 139 constitutions: of Bolivia, 139, 141; of Chile, 88; of Costa Rica, 14; of Cuba, 162; integration of h ­ uman rights in, 14–15, 186, 202, 238–39; of Venezuela, 143 contraceptives, 209, 210 contras (anti-­Sandinista groups), 96–97 Convention Against Torture, 6 Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against W ­ omen, 202 Convention on Indigenous and Tribal ­Peoples (ILO No. 169), 194 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 211 Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), 125, 202

conversion therapy, 192 cooperatives, 165, 195 Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos (National Coordinator for ­Human Rights), 132 Cordobazo of 1969, 70 corruption, 136, 153, 167, 171, 241 Costa Rica, 14, 95, 179, 188, 208, 274, 275t coups: in Argentina, 70; in Chile, 37, 78; in Guatemala, 37, 99; in Haiti, 152; in Peru, 130 Covid-19 pandemic, 145, 204, 212, 215, 294, 294–95 Crenshaw, Kimberlé Williams, 177 criminal gangs in Brazil, 167 criminal organ­izations, 31, 98, 105, 106, 112–13. See also drug trafficking organ­ izations; gangs criollos, 136, 141 “critical pedagogy,” 212–13 Cuba, 150, 158–63; abortion in, 209; association of relatives of the dis­appeared in, 228; asylum in the U.S., 152, 162; censorship in, 234, 235; communism in, 158–59; constitution of, 162; democ­ ratization in, 283; “digital authoritarianism” in, 234; embargo against, 159, 162–63, 244, 285; growth of ­human rights groups in, 288; ICC in, 256; in­de­pen­dence for, 158; LGBTQ rights in, 186, 188; on Po­liti­cal Terror Scale, 275t; slavery in, 11; standard of living in, 160, 208, 244; torture in, 158; ­women in politics in, 179 Cuba Libre (­Free Cuba) (Sánchez), 161 Cuban-­A merican lobby, 162, 244 Cuban Missile Crisis, 158–59 Cuban Revolution, 38, 158 cultural assumption of h ­ uman rights abuses, 25 “cyberwar,” 107, 161. See also Internet Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White), 160, 228 da Penha, Maria, 183 da Silva, Luiz Inácio “Lula,” 171 de Acha, Claudio, 71 death squads: in Argentina, 70–71; in Brazil, 164; and drug cartels, 126; in Haiti, 152; in Honduras, 38; in Peru, 130, 131, 134 death threats, 234 decision-­making ­factors of h ­ uman rights abuses, 26–32

I n de x 321 “Declaration in Defense of H ­ uman Rights” (Inter-­A merican Conference), 16 Declaration on the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (France), 14 Defensorías del Pueblo (­Human Rights Ombudsman Offices), 238–39 deforestation, 232 dehumanization through language, 72 Delegate Zero, 107 democracy: accountability of po­liti­c al leaders ­under, 291; and constitutions, 238; and Covid-19, 295; and ­human rights abuses, 28–29, 45; and ­human rights reform, 283, 286; and inter-­A merican ­human rights system, 269; role of U.S. in promotion of, 96 deportations: of Haitians, 155–56; of undocumented immigrants, 113, 114 detention centers, 70, 71, 79, 81, 231 Díaz-­Canel, Miguel, 162 “digital authoritarianism,” 234–35 DINA. See Dirección de Inteligencia Nacional (DINA) Dirección de Inteligencia Nacional (DINA), 81, 83 dirty war: Argentina’s, 70–75, 227, 257; Mexico’s, 106–7 disability rights, 211–12, 233–34 disappearances: and amnesty laws, 86; in Argentina, 69, 73, 227; of Ayotzinapa students, 112; in Brazil, 164; of c­ hildren, 71–72; during the Cold War, 263; defined, 7; in Honduras, 265; of journalists, 234; Latin American role in norms against, 17–18; quantification of, 273; rates of, 276; relatives of, 226–28; and TANs, 278; and UN Special Rapporteurs, 252; of young ­women, 108–9 displaced ­people: and Belo Monte proj­ect, 217; in Colombia, 144; and Covid-19, 295; of indigenous groups, 194; from Puerto Rico, 163–64; resettling of, 128; and UN High Commissioner for Refugees, 253; in Venezuela, 144–45 domestic instability as trigger for h ­ uman rights violations, 44–45 domestic vio­lence, 171, 183, 184, 312n9 Dominican Republic, 155–56, 189, 209, 254, 275t drug trafficking organ­izations: and corrupt governments, 105; expansion of, 114; and Mérida Initiative, 111–12; and militaries,

42; as paramilitaries, 126; Shining Path, 129–30; and U.S. foreign policy, 285. See also criminal organ­izations; gangs drug war. See “war on drugs” Due Obedience Law (Ley de Obediencia Debida), 77 Duvalier, François “Papa Doc,” 152 Duvalier, Jean-­Claude “Baby Doc,” 152, 156 dynamic models of h ­ uman rights change, 286–87 earthquakes, 154, 216 economic, social and cultural rights. See ESC rights economic expansion, 206 economic ideology, 34–35 Economist magazine, 201, 202 ecotourism, 195 Ec­ua­dor: disability rights in, 211–12; indigenous land rights in, 195; indigenous po­liti­cal power in, 196; on Po­liti­cal Terror Scale, 274, 275t; same-­sex marriage in, 188; truth commissions in, 51–53t; vio­lence against protesters in, 283 education, 212–15; in Brazil, 169, 212; and CCTs, 213; in Cuba, 160; and disability, 211; in Haiti, 157; for indigenous groups, 104–5, 141, 193; and in­equality, 214–15; right to, 14; and ­women’s rights, 180 18th Street (Calle 18) gang, 42, 105 Ejército Revolucionario del Pueblo (ERP), 30 Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (EZLN), 13, 30, 107–8 “El Chapo,” 111 El Mozote massacre, 38, 98 El Salvador, 95; abortion in, 209, 210; artists in, 231; child ­labor in, 215; civil war in, 97–98; contraceptives in, 210; femicide in, 109; and migration, 113–15; murders of ­human rights defenders in, 224; po­liti­cal terror in, 273t, 275t; role of U.S. in, 96; same-­sex marriage in, 187; truth commissions in, 52t, 98, 263–64; “war on drugs” in, 34 embargos: against Cuba, 159, 162–63, 244, 285. See also sanctions encomiendas (large estates), 10 entitlements, h ­ uman rights as, 4 environmental defenders, risks to, 166 Environmental Defense Fund, 165 environmental sustainability, 215–17

322 I n de x environmental vulnerability, 193–94 Equipo Argentino de Antropología Forense (Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team), 56, 56–57, 76, 98 ERP. See Ejército Revolucionario del Pueblo (ERP) Escobar, Pablo, 42, 126 ESC rights, 14–15, 200–204, 276–77 Eu­rope, prosecution of h ­ uman rights cases in, 62–63 Eu­ro­pean Parliament, 160 Eu­ro­pean Union: aid against femicide, 110–11; pressure on Latin American countries, 242 evil assumption of h ­ uman rights assumptions, 24–25 exclusionary ideologies: defined, 32; and domestic instability, 45; and ­human rights reform, 284; as per­sis­tent challenge, 292–94; as starting point in ­human rights abuses, 44 executions, extrajudicial, 7, 164 expression, freedom of, 161 extractive reserves, 165–66 EZLN. See Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (EZLN) “fair-­trade” products, 195–96 Falcone, María Claudia, 71 Falkland Islands, 75 “false positives,” 126–27 family-­separation policies, 115–16 Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), 97 FARC guerrillas. See Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) Farthing, Linda, 139 favelas (slums), 166, 166–67 femicide, 109–11, 184, 284. See also vio­lence against ­women “feminization of poverty,” 207 fertility rates, 209, 210 Figueroa, Ana, 17 Filártiga v. Peña-­Irala, 62 filmmaking, ­human rights activism through, 234 Final Stop Law (Ley de Punto Final), 77 Fonda, Jane, 110 food, right to, 207, 208 food shortages, 143, 208. See also malnutrition Ford Foundation, 230

Foreign Assistance Act, 243 foreign policy, U.S., 41–43, 74–75, 243, 244, 284–85 forensic anthropologists, 56, 56–57, 76, 98, 103 14ymedio (media organ­ization), 161 “Fourteen Families,” 97 Fox, Vicente, 108 France: aid in overthrow of Aristide, 153; embargo against Haiti, 151; pressure on Latin American countries, 242 Francis (pope), 187 Fraser Subcommittee, 243 Fray Bartolomé de las Casas ­Human Rights Center, 13 Freedom House, 283 Freire, Paulo, 212–13 From Madness to Hope (El Salvador truth commission report), 98 Front Line Defenders, 224 Fuentes Alarcón, Jorge Isaac, 82 Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), 124, 124–28 Fujimori, Alberto, 129–32, 134, 135t, 210 Fujimori, Keiko, 135 fumigation, aerial, 41–42, 127, 138 Gabriel, Peter, 110 gangs, 42, 98, 105, 167, 168, 276–77. See also criminal organ­izations; drug trafficking organ­izations Garcés, Joan, 85 García, Alan, 135t, 136 Garzón, Baltasar, 85, 259 gas, natu­ral, 139 Gas Wars, 139 Gay Pride parades, 188 gay rights. See LGBTQ rights gender equality, 178, 284 gender identity rights, 188–89, 189, 190–91, 225. See also LGBTQ rights gender-“normalization” surgery, 192 gender parity, 88, 180 gender quotas, 179–80 Gender Vio­lence Alert, 110 Generación Y (Cuban blog), 161 genet­ically modified crops, 165 Geneva Conventions, 27, 125 genocide: of Mayan population, 35, 37, 55, 101–2; Tlatelolco massacre as, 64 Gerardi, Juan José, 102 “Gimme Some Truth” (Lennon), 231 globalization, indigenous ­people and, 195–96

I n de x 323 Global Witness, 225 Godoy Lagarrigue, Carlos, 79 Gonzalez (“Cotton Field”) v. Mexico, 110 governmental allies in defense of ­human rights, 238–42 GPS and documentation of ­human rights violations, 233 Grand­mothers of the Plaza de Mayo (Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo), 57, 72–73, 76, 226 grassroots campaigns, 235 graves, mass, 259 group rights, 13, 15 Guaidó, Juan, 145, 291 Guam, 163 Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, 152–53 Guatemala, 95, 99–106; amnesty laws in, 106; civil war in, 99; coups in, 37, 99; genocide of Mayan ­people in, 35, 37, 55, 101–2; growth of ­human rights groups in, 288; guerrilla groups in, 100; ­human development in, 207; ­human rights ­trials in, 102, 202; impunity in, 106; indigenous groups in, 99, 136–42, 192, 196; international isolation of, 101; malnutrition in, 207; maternal health in, 209; and migration, 113–15; murders of h ­ uman rights defenders in, 224; National Police files, 54–55; open-­source software in, 233; peace agreements in, 101, 105; po­liti­cal terror in, 273t, 275t; poverty in, 104; protests in, 101; public memorials in, 60; reparations programs in, 57, 58, 102, 103; role of U.S. in, 96; and security threats, 30; sexual vio­lence in, 103; social movements in, 100; transitional justice in, 238; truth commissions in, 51, 52t, 54, 55, 61 Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Team, 103 Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity (URNG), 100 Guevara, Che, 158 Guzmán, Abimael, 130, 134 Guzmán, Juan, 86 Haiti, 150, 151–57; artists in, 231; earthquakes in, 154, 216; growth of ­human rights groups in, 288; ­human development in, 207; in­equality in, 207; maternal health in, 209; police vio­lence against protestors in, 30; po­liti­cal terror in, 273t, 275t; truth commissions in, 52t; UN peacekeepers in, 153, 154, 154–55, 254; ­women in politics in, 179

Harris, Kamala, 116 hate crimes, 189–91 Hayek, Salma, 110 health, 208–12; and CCTs, 213; and Pan American Health Organ­ization, 254; ­women’s, 180, 201, 208–10 health care: access to, 211–12; in Cuba, 160; right to, 202 Hispaniola, 151, 155 History of the Indies (las Casas), 13–14 HIV/AIDS, 153, 188, 202 homelessness, 214 hom­i­cide rates, 105, 184, 272–74, 277 homo­sexuality. See LGBTQ rights; marriage, same-­sex Honduras: abortion in, 209; compensation programs in, 59; disappearances in, 265; and migration, 113–15; murders of h ­ uman rights defenders in, 224; po­liti­cal terror in, 273t, 275t; same-­sex marriage in, 189; truth commissions in, 52t, 53t; U.S. support in, 96 hope, 296 Huerto, Dolores, 291 Humala, Ollanta, 135t, 136 ­Human Development Index, 157, 204–7, 205t ­human rights: for both men and ­women, 17; comparative mea­sures of, 272–77; integration into constitutions, 238–39; interdependence of, 7, 200; as positive rights, 201, 265; as standards, 4, 5t ­human rights abuses: against c­ hildren, 71–72; criminal cases in Chile for, 87–88; explanations for, 26–36, 43–45, 44; mea­sure­ment errors in, 276; prisons as sites of, 168; quantification of, 272–74, 273t; roots of, 10, 15, 23–25 ­human rights defenders, 314n1 (chap. 9); “relatives of the dis­appeared,” 226–28; religious groups as, 228–30; as targets of abuse, 224–25. See also activists, local; governmental allies in defense of ­human rights; nongovernmental organ­izations (NGOs); pressure, ­human rights ­Human Rights First, 236 ­human rights governance: global, 250–58; regional, 250, 258–67. See also Inter-­ American Court of ­Human Rights; International Criminal Court (ICC); United Nations ­human rights issues, framing of, 232

324 I n de x ­human rights justice, 49–50. See also ­human rights ­trials; truth commissions ­human rights norms: contribution of Latin Amer­i­ca to, 12–19; defined, 4 ­Human Rights Ombudsman (Guatemala), 54–55 ­human rights organ­izations: in Argentina, 72–75; growth of in Cuba, 288; integration of ESC rights, 202–3; weakness of in Brazil, 164. See also specific organ­izations ­human rights pro­gress, 204, 291–92, 294–95 ­human rights reforms, conditions for, 282–85 ­human rights training, 40, 133, 239, 240 ­human rights transformations: and impunity, 50; models of, 285–88; per­sis­tent challenges to, 292–93; po­liti­cal analy­sis of, 2–3, 8; as a spectrum, 288–89; and TANs, 279–80; as a work in pro­gress, 295–96 ­human rights ­trials, 50, 61–65, 76–77, 102 ­Human Rights Watch, 75, 85, 126–27, 236, 255 ­human trafficking, 181–82 hybrid regime, Venezuela as, 143, 144 hydroelectric power, 216–17 I, Rigoberta Menchú (Menchú), 100 IACHR. See Inter-­A merican Commission on ­Human Rights (IACHR) ideological domination, 10 ideological ­factors of ­human rights abuses, 26, 32–36 Iguarán, Mario, 259 immigration control: by Dominican Republic, 155–56; by the U.S., 113–15 imprisonment, po­liti­cal, 7, 159, 276 impunity, 36, 50, 64–65, 106, 292, 293, 308n1 Inca empire, 136 income groups, change in, 206 indigenista movement, 137 Indigenous and Tribal ­Peoples Convention, 137 indigenous lands, 137, 194–95, 284 indigenous movements, 137, 193, 296 indigenous p ­ eople: and Belo Monte proj­ect, 216–17; and colonialism, 10; discrimination against, 196; displacement of, 194; education of, 141, 193; elimination of, 100; equal treatment of, 13; and exploitation of natu­ral resources, 137–38; and globalization, 195–96; in Guatemala, 99, 136–42,

192; land rights for, 141, 194–95, 282; in legislatures, 141, 142; maternal health among, 209; in Mexico, 107, 108, 192; migration to urban areas, 193; in Peru, 133, 192; po­liti­cal power of, 196; poverty among, 104–5, 193, 207; right to vote for, 137; as scapegoats, 240; vio­lence against, 194 indigenous rights, 192–96; abuse t­ oward defenders of, 225; in Brazil, 171 indigenous w ­ omen: and education, 104–5; forced sterilization of, 210; and poverty, 193, 207 in­equality: and CCTs, 213; and Covid-19, 294–95; in education, 214–15; in health care, 212; and ­human rights reform, 283–84; as per­sis­tent challenge, 292–93; socioeconomic, 28, 136, 164, 169–71 inflation, 143 informal economies, 181, 206, 294–95 “information paradox,” 276 Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, 156 institutions, state: reform of, 239–41 Inter-­A merican Commission on H ­ uman Rights (IACHR), 260–63; on abuse ­toward ­human rights defenders, 224–25; and Barrios Altos massacre, 131; and da Penha case, 183; disappearance of Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers College students, 112; efficiency of, 268; and femicide, 110; and hate crimes against LGBTQ ­people, 189; ­human rights accountability in Honduras, 59; and Inter-­A merican Court of ­Human Rights, 264; investigation of h ­ uman rights abuses in Argentina, 75; and La Cantuta massacre, 132; and ­mental disability rights, 234; on-­site visits by, 267; and Velásquez Rodríguez case, 265 Inter-­A merican Conference, 16. See also Organ­ization of American States (OAS) Inter-­A merican Convention on Forced Disappearance of Persons, 7, 86, 226 Inter-­A merican Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Vio­lence Against ­Women (Belém do Pará Convention), 110, 182 Inter-­A merican Convention on the Protection of the ­Human Rights of Older Persons, 202 Inter-­A merican Court of H ­ uman Rights, 260, 263–67, 282; amnesty law in Peru,

I n de x 325 131; and amnesty laws for disappearances, 86; and anti-­terrorism legislation in Peru, 134; and Ciudad Juárez femicide, 110; and disappearances, 227; efficiency of, 268–69; ESC rights as justiciable by, 202; ­human rights accountability in Honduras, 59; impor­tant decisions from, 266t; and indigenous land rights, 195; and La Cantuta massacre, 132; and LGBTQ rights, 188–89; and Mack’s murder, 58; and Plan de Sánchez massacre, 102; reach of, 267; and rule of law, 267; volume of cases, 268 Inter-­A merican Defense College, 38 Inter-­A merican Demo­cratic Charter of 2001, 18 intercultural bilingual education (IBE), 193 International Bill of ­Human Rights. See International Covenant on Civil and Po­liti­cal Rights; International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; Universal Declaration of H ­ uman Rights (UDHR) International Center for Transitional Justice, 255 International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), 106 International Commission of Jurists, 237 International Committee of the Red Cross, 27, 167, 208 International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, 226 International Court of Justice, 256 International Covenant on Civil and Po­liti­cal Rights, 4, 200, 251 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 4, 200, 202 International Criminal Court (ICC), 18, 63, 144, 256–58, 259, 265, 267 International Federation for ­Human Rights, 237 International L ­ abor Organ­ization (ILO), 137, 194, 213–14 International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, 190 International Monetary Fund (IMF), 34, 138, 245 International Organ­ization for Migration, 145 Internet, 107, 144, 161–62, 232, 234–35, 278 internship opportunities with NGOs, 299–300

intersectional analy­sis of h ­ uman rights, 177–78, 191–92 Isiboro-­Secure Indigenous Territory and National Park, 142 Italy, prosecution of h ­ uman rights cases in, 62 Jaguares (band), 231 Jara, Victor, 230 journalists as ­human rights defenders, 231–32, 234 judicial reform, 239 Junta Trial, 256–57 “justice cascade,” 64 “justiciable,” rights as, 201, 202 katarista movement, 137 kidnapping: of mi­grants, 114. See also disappearances Kirchner, Cristina Fernández de, 190 Kirchner, Néstor, 73 Kirkpatrick, Jeane, 37, 96 Kirkpatrick Doctrine, 37, 96 Kissinger, Henry, 37, 75, 82–83 Klein, Naomi, 296 Kohl, Benjamin, 139 Kuczynski, Pedro Pablo, 134–36, 135t ­labor camps, 159, 186 ­labor quotas for trans ­people, 191 ­labor ­unions in Guatemala, 100 ­labor unrest, suppression of, 164 La Cantuta massacre, 130–32, 134 Ladies in White (Damas de Blanco), 160, 228 Ladinos, 99 land access, poverty and, 105, 166 Landless Workers’ Movement. See Movimento dos Trabalhadores Sem Terra (MST) land mines, ban on, 211 land reform in Brazil, 164–65 land rights, indigenous, 141, 194–95, 282 land rights defenders, risks for, 166, 195, 224–25 language extinction, 193 language use to dehumanize, 72 Larios, Fernández, 62 las Casas, Bartolomé de, 12–14 Latin Amer­i­ca: contribution to h ­ uman rights norms, 12–19; defined, 9 Latin Amer­i­ca Federation of Associations for Relatives of the Detained-­Disappeared (FEDEFAM), 226

326 I n de x La Violencia, 100, 124 ­L awyers Committee for H ­ uman Rights, 236 Lazarte, Silvia, 139 Leahy, Patrick, 127 Leahy law, 127 legislatures: disbanding of in Venezuela, 144; indigenous groups in, 141, 142; ­women in, 179–80 Lennon, John, 231 Letelier, Orlando, 62, 81, 82 Ley de Obediencia Debida (Due Obedience Law), 77 Ley de Punto Final (Final Stop Law), 77 LGBTQ ­people, vio­lence against, 189–91 LGBTQ rights, 185–92, 189; abuse against defenders of, 225; in constitutions, 186; decriminalization of, 185; and exclusionary ideologies, 284; and Inter-­A merican Court of H ­ uman Rights, 188–89; and ­labor camps, 186; and police, 185; and UN voting blocs, 254. See also marriage, same-­sex life expectancy, 160, 208 literacy, 160, 212, 213 loans as ­human rights pressure, 245 Lopez, Jennifer, 110, 278 the “lost de­cade” for Latin American development, 283 Los Zetas gang, 42, 113, 114 Loveman, Brian, 31 Lucanamarca massacre, 129 Mack, Myrna, 58 Madres de Plaza de Mayo (­Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo), 57, 72–73, 74, 76, 77, 186, 226, 227, 230 Maduro, Nicolás, 143–45, 208, 234, 244, 283 MAL (Anti-­Discrimination Movement of Liberation), 190 malnutrition, 104, 144, 207, 208 Malvinas Islands, 75 mano dura (“iron-­fist”) responses, 34, 98, 168, 239 March for Territory and Dignity, 137 Maria da Penha Law, 183 marijuana, 168 marriage, interracial, 168–69 marriage, same-­sex, 186–89. See also LGBTQ rights MAS. See Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS)

massacres: in Brazil, 167, 214; in El Salvador, 38, 98; in Guatemala, 102; in Haiti, 156; in Mexico, 64, 106–8, 112–13; in Peru, 129, 130, 131, 134 maternal health, 201, 208–10 Mayan p ­ eople: genocide of, 35, 37, 55, 101–2; land rights for, 99, 194; sexual vio­lence against, 103 MDGs. See Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Mead, Margaret, 245 media: in Cuba, 159, 234; as ­human rights defender, 231–32; ­human rights pressures through, 244; in Venezuela, 144 medicine shortages, 143, 144 Memorial of Dis­appeared and Detained Citizens, 59 memorials, public, 59–60, 103 Memory of Silence (Guatemala truth commission report), 55, 102 Menchú, Rigoberta, 100, 101, 102 Mendes, Chico, 165–66 Méndez, Juan, 75, 192, 254–55 Meném, Carlos, 77, 78 ­mental disability rights, 233–34 Mercosur, 242 Mérida Initiative, 42, 111–12 Merino, Manuel, 136 mestizos, 35, 99, 136 Mexico, 64, 95, 106–13; abortion in, 209; artists in, 231; and asylum, 115; CCTs in, 213; constitution of, 14; and Covid-19, 212; dirty war of, 106–7; disappearance of journalists in, 232, 234; drug cartels in, 105; femicide in, 184; ­human rights defenders in, 224; IACHR in, 262; indigenous groups in, 107, 108, 192, 196; massacres in, 112–13; and migration, 113–15, 243; po­liti­c al terror in, 273t, 275, 275t; protests in, 111; reparation programs in, 110; same-­sex marriage in, 188; security threats in, 30, 111; transitional justice in, 238; truth commissions in, 51, 112; vio­lence against ­women in, 185; “war on drugs” in, 111–12, 114, 283; ­women in politics in, 179 microcephaly, 210 Mignone, Emilio, 74 migration, 42–43, 105, 113–16, 243, 285, 294. See also asylum; displaced ­people; immigration control; refugees

I n de x 327 militaries: abolishing of, 95, 153; and drug trafficking, 42; ­human rights abuses by, 126–27; ­human rights accountability and strength of, 50; ­human rights training for, 133; massacres by, 129; and national security ideology, 33; performing police work, 167; as per­sis­tent challenge to ­human rights reforms, 293–94; security threats and institutional power of, 11, 31; vio­lence against protestors, 70 military tribunals, 130, 134 Military Units to Aid Production, 159 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), 203, 208 mining, 138, 224–25 MINUSTAH (UN peacekeeping forces), 153, 154, 154–55, 254 Moïse, Jovenal, 155 Monsanto (corporation), 165 Montesa, María Magdalena, 130 Montoneros insurgents, 30, 71 Montt, Efraín Ríos, 24–25 Morales, Evo, 138, 139, 141–42 Morales, Jimmy, 106 Morales Bermudez, Francisco, 135t Moreno, Lenín, 211–12 Moreno Ocampo, Luis, 256–58, 259 mortality, child, 160, 208–10 ­Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo (Madres de Plaza de Mayo), 57, 72–73, 74, 76, 77, 186, 226, 227, 230 movement, freedom of, 160–62 Movimento dos Trabalhadores Sem Terra (MST), 164–65, 171 Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS), 137, 139, 142 MS-13 (Mara Salvatrucha) gang, 42, 105 MST. See Movimento dos Trabalhadores Sem Terra (MST) Mujica, José, 89–90 munitions testing, 163 Muntaner, Francisco López, 71 National Assembly (Venezuela), 145 National Commissioner for the Protection of ­Human Rights (Honduras), 52t National Commission for Truth and Reconciliation (Chile), 52t, 84 National Commission of Inquiry into Disappearances (Bolivia), 52t National Commission on the Dis­appeared (CONADEP, Argentina), 52t, 76

National Coordinator for H ­ uman Rights (Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos), 132 National H ­ uman Rights Commission (Mexico), 112 National Institute of Statistics (Guatemala), 104–5 National Intelligence Directorate. See Dirección de Inteligencia Nacional (DINA) National Peace Commission (Uruguay), 53t National Police (Guatemala), 54–55 national security, 32–34, 44, 164, 283, 293–94 National Stadium (Chile), 79, 231 National Truth and Justice Commission (Haiti), 52t National Truth Commission (Brazil), 53t National Wildlife Federation, 165 natu­ral resources, 123, 137–39, 141–42, 165–66, 193–95, 216 “natu­ral rights,” 24 Navy Mechanics School, 60, 78 negative rights, 201 neoliberalism, 34–35, 44, 138 Neruda, Pablo, 230–31 the Netherlands, pressure on Latin American countries by, 242 network activism. See transnational advocacy networks (TANs) New Scotland Yard, 167 Nicaragua: abortion in, 209; civil war in, 95; democ­ratization in, 117, 283; ICC in, 256; indigenous politics in, 196; murders of ­human rights defenders in, 224; po­liti­cal terror in, 273t, 275t; role of U.S. in, 96–97; ­women in politics in, 179 Night of the Pencils, 71–72 #NiUnaMenos (#NotOneLess) movement, 184, 185 Nixon, Richard, 41 Nobel Peace Prize, 71, 100, 101, 128, 236 nongovernmental organ­izations (NGOs): domestic, 230–32, 278; as enemies of the state, 143; growth in ­human rights through, 225; international, 235–38, 278; internships with, 299–300. See also specific organ­izations North American F ­ ree Trade Agreement (NAFTA), 107 Northern Triangle, 105, 113. See also El Salvador; Guatemala; Honduras

328 I n de x Nuestras Hijas de Regreso a Casa / Our ­Daughters Return Home, 227–28 Nunca Más (Never Again): The Report of the Argentine National Commission for the Dis­appeared (Argentina truth commission report), 55, 71, 76, 293 OAS. See Organ­ization of American States (OAS) Oaxaca, Mexico, 188 Obama, Barack, 43, 113, 162, 258, 291 obesity and poverty, 207 Obrador, Andrés Manuel López, 112, 212 oil production in Venezuela, 142–44, 145, 244 “one drop rule,” 169 Operation Condor, 37, 62, 78, 81–82 Oportunidades (CCT program), 213 Organ­ization of American States (OAS), 258–60; on Bolivian election, 142; on extrajudicial executions in Venezuela, 144; and gender equality, 178; in Haiti, 152; ­human rights pressure through, 242–43; and LGBTQ rights, 188–89; on Nicaraguan election, 117; and vio­lence against ­women, 182. See also Inter-­ American Commission on H ­ uman Rights (IACHR); Inter-­A merican Court of ­Human Rights or­ga­nized crime groups. See criminal organ­izations; drug trafficking organ­ izations; gangs Ortega, Daniel, 117 “outsiders,” 32 Pagina 12 (newspaper), 191 Panama, 16, 53t, 274, 275t Pan American Health Organ­ization, 254 Paniagua, Valentín, 135t Paraguay, 53t, 62, 69, 88, 233–34, 275t paramilitaries, 126–28 “parapolitics” scandals, 126 ­pardons: of Fujimori, 134–36; of Montesa, 130; of Videla, 77, 78 Paris Agreement, 216 Park for Peace, 60 Partido dos Trabalhadores (Workers’ Party), 170–71 pau de arara (parrot’s perch) torture technique, 164 Paz y Paz, Claudia, 106 peace agreements, 101, 105, 127–29

peacekeepers, UN. See United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) Pedagogy of the Oppressed (Freire), 212–13 peer pressure among countries, 242–43 Peña-­Irala, Américo Norberto, 62 ­People’s Revolutionary Army. See Ejército Revolucionario del Pueblo (ERP) Pérez Esquivel, Adolfo, 71 Permanent Assembly for H ­ uman Rights, 76 Perón, Isabel, 70 Perón, Juan, 70 personal-­integrity rights. See physical-­ integrity rights Peru, 129–36; amnesty laws in, 131, 132; compensation programs in, 132; corruption in, 136, 241; and Covid-19, 212; ­human rights training in, 133; ICC in, 265, 267; indigenous groups in, 133, 192, 196; massacres by the military in, 129, 133; #NiUnaMenos movement in, 184; open-­source software in, 233; po­liti­cal terror in, 273t, 275t; population control in, 210; presidential rec­ord in, 135t; reparations programs in, 133; security threats in, 30; transitional justice in, 132–36; truth commissions in, 51, 53t, 54, 233; Venezuelan asylum seekers in, 145; “war on drugs” in, 123; “war on terrorism” in, 129–30, 134 petitions, h ­ uman rights, 261–62 the Philippines, 163 physical-­integrity rights, 6–7, 117, 276, 283 Physicians for H ­ uman Rights, 237 Piñera, Sebastián, 88, 283 “pink tide,” 186–87, 240–41, 293 Pinochet, Augusto, 24–25, 78, 83–87, 89 Piscopo, Jennifer, 180 Plan Colombia, 41, 127 Plan de Sánchez massacre, 102 “Plan for the Regularization of Foreigners” (Dominican Republic), 156 police: complicity of, 113; corruption of, 167; ­human rights training for, 239; reform of, 167, 171, 239–40; and sex workers, 181; and “street youth,” 214 police stations, ­women’s, 182–83 police vio­lence: in Brazil, 166–68, 239–40; against LGBTQ ­people, 185, 191; against protesters, 30, 142; and racism, 170 po­liti­cal analy­sis of ­human rights transformation, 8

I n de x 329 po­liti­cal dissidence in Cuba, 160 po­liti­cal imprisonment, 7, 69, 159, 276 po­liti­cal power of indigenous ­people, 196 po­liti­cal terror, 273t, 283 Po­liti­cal Terror Scale (PTS), 274–77, 275t, 315n2 (chap. 11) population stabilization, 209, 210 pop­u ­lism, 241, 293 positive rights, 201, 265 poverty, 204–6; in Argentina, 28; as cause of ­human rights abuses, 27–28; and CCTs, 213; and Covid-19, 212; in Cuba, 160, 244; and disability, 211; and forced sterilization, 210; in Guatemala, 104; in Haiti, 152, 157; and ­human rights reform, 283–84; and indigenous groups, 104–5, 193, 207; and land access, 105, 166; and malnutrition, 207; and maternal health, 209; as per­sis­tent challenge, 292–93; and police vio­lence, 240; and ­women, 180–81 “precriminal dangerousness,” 161 presidents, w ­ omen as, 180 the press, freedom of, 117, 143, 232 pressure, h ­ uman rights, 242–45, 285–86, 288 prisoners of conscience, 75, 160, 255 Prisoner Without a Name, Cell Without a Number (Timerman), 228 prisons, 167–68. See also po­liti­cal imprisonment privatization of utilities, 138–39 Protestants, gay rights and, 187 protesters: in Argentina, 28, 74; in Guatemala, 101; in Mexico, 111; vio­lence against, 30, 70, 106–7, 142, 144, 283 Protocol of San Salvador, 202 psychological torture, 6 public sector jobs, affirmative action and, 170 Puerto Rico, 163–64 Quechua ­people, 136, 141 “quiet diplomacy,” 242 Raboteau massacre, 156 “racial democracy,” 169 racism, 35, 44, 168–70, 284 rape. See sexual vio­lence; vio­lence against ­women Rasero, Daniel Alberto, 71 Reagan, Ronald, 37, 83, 96, 101 Recovery of Historical Memory Proj­ect, 102 Red Cross. See International Committee of the Red Cross

Refugee Convention, 114 refugees, 114–15, 152–53, 162, 242, 253, 255. See also asylum; displaced ­people; immigration control; migration regional contagion of ­human rights change, 287 “relatives of the dis­appeared,” 226–28 religious groups as h ­ uman rights defenders, 228–30 reparation programs, 57–59, 77, 84, 102–4, 110, 133. See also compensation programs; memorials, public Report of the Chilean National Commission on Truth and Reconciliation, 80 repression, 6, 160, 229, 274 reproductive rights. See abortion; contraceptives reputations, international, 253, 278 resource extraction, 139, 141–42, 193–95, 216 restaveks, 157–58 “restorative justice,” 61 “retributive justice,” 61–63 Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. See Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) The Right to Memory and Truth (truth commission report, Brazil), 51 Ríos Montt, Efraín, 30, 100, 102–3 Rodríguez Martínez, Miriam Elizabeth, 228 Romero, Oscar, 38, 97, 228 Rome Statute, 256, 257 Roo­se­velt, Eleanor, 16, 17 Rousseff, Dilma, 171 rule of law, 153, 155, 156, 293 rural-­urban disparities, 11, 209 Sacayán, Diana, 190–91 Sagasti, Francisco, 136 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, 160 Sánchez, Yoani, 161–62 sanctions: against Chile, 83; against Haiti, 151, 152; against Nicaragua, 96; and TANs, 278; against Venezuelan, 145, 244, 285. See also embargos San­di­nis­tas, 96 Santa Cruz, Hernán, 16 Santayana, George, 293 Santi, Marlon, 282 Santos, Juan Manuel, 128 Sarayaku ­people, 195 Sarayaku v. Ec­ua­dor, 282

330 I n de x Save the ­Children, 237 School of the Amer­i­cas (SOA), 38–40, 39 Scilingo, Adolfo, 63 SDGs. See Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) security threats, 29–31, 111 Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path), 30, 129–34 Servicio Paz y Justicia (SERPAJ), 71, 228 sexual exploitation of c­ hildren, 214 sexual intercourse, same-­sex, 187. See also LGBTQ rights sexual orientation: abuse against defenders of, 225; and antidiscrimination laws, 191. See also LGBTQ rights sexual vio­lence, 103–4, 214, 225 sex work, 181–82, 190 Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso), 30, 129–34 Sikkink, Kathryn, 2, 276 Sinaloa Cartel, 111, 113 ¡Sí se puede! slogan, 291 slavery, 10–11, 150, 151, 168–69; restaveks as, 157–58 Snow, Clyde, 56, 56, 76 SOA. See School of the Amer­i­cas (SOA) social exclusions, disability and, 211 social media, 232, 234, 235 software, open-­source, 233 soldiers, child, 214 Southern Cone countries, 69, 207, 288. See also Argentina; Chile; Paraguay; Uruguay sovereignty, state, 84, 253, 255, 264, 281 Soviet Union, collapse of, 160 Space for Memory and the Promotion and Defense of H ­ uman Rights, 78 Spain: extradition of Pinochet to, 84; pressure on foreign states by, 242; prosecution of ­human rights cases, 63 Spanish-­A merican War, 36, 163 Special Jurisdictions for Peace, 128 “Special Period” in Cuba, 160 speech, freedom of, 159 spiral model of h ­ uman rights change, 286–87 The State of the World’s H ­ uman Rights (Amnesty International report), 18 static model of ­human rights change, 285–86 sterilization, forced, 136, 210 Sting, 231 Straw, Jack, 85 “street youth,” 166, 214 Stroessner, Alfredo, 69 structural adjustment programs, 138

Subcomandante Marcos, 107 sugar industry, 158 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), 203, 203–4, 208 Sweden, protection of refugees by, 242 Taino ­people, 151 TANs. See transnational advocacy networks (TANs) technology, activists and, 232–35 terrorism. See anti-­terrorism legislation; po­liti­cal terror; Po­liti­cal Terror Scale (PTS); “war on terrorism” text messaging, 233, 234 “They Dance Alone” (Sting), 231 Timerman, Jacobo, 228, 229 Tlatelolco massacre, 64, 106–7, 112 Toledo, Alejandro, 135t Tonton Macoutes (paramilitary force), 152 Torogoces (“songbirds”), 231 torture: in Brazil, 164; conversion therapy as, 192; in Cuba, 158; defined, 6; freedom from as negative and positive right, 201; in Haiti, 152; manuals for, 39–41; rates of, 276; and UN Special Rapporteurs, 253–55; in Venezuela, 144 Torture Victim Protection Act, 62 trade blocs, 242 transitional justice, 132–36, 238 transnational advocacy networks (TANs), 108, 110, 277–82, 288 trans rights, 190–91. See also LGBTQ rights “transvesticide,” 191 treaties, h ­ uman rights, 6–7, 260t Treviño, Victor, 71 ­Triple A (Argentine Anticommunist Alliance), 70 Trump, Donald, 43, 113, 115–16, 145, 162 Truth and Justice Commission (Ec­ua­dor), 52t Truth and Justice Commission (Paraguay), 53t Truth and Reconciliation Commission (Honduras), 53t Truth and Reconciliation Commission (Peru), 53t, 130, 132–34 Truth Commission (Ec­ua­dor), 53t Truth Commission (Panama), 53t truth commissions, 48, 50–59, 52–53t; in Argentina, 76; documentation of abuses by, 54–57; in El Salvador, 98, 263–64; in Guatemala, 51, 52t, 54, 55, 61; in­de­pen­ dence of, 54; mandates of, 51; in Mexico, 51, 112; as not enough, 61; and open-­

I n de x 331 source software, 233; in Peru, 51, 53t, 54, 233; po­liti­cal tradeoffs of, 63; and public memorials, 59–60, 103; and quantification of abuses, 272; and reparations, 57–59; reports by, 55–56, 98, 102; sponsored by the Catholic Church, 102 Tuira, 217 Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, 265 Tupamaro guerrillas, 89 Tutela ­L egal, 228 U2, 231 Ungaro, Horacio Angel, 71 United Farm Workers of Amer­i­ca, 291 United Fruit Com­pany, 99 United Kingdom, 75, 151 United Nations: aid against femicide, 111; cholera in Haiti, 155, 156; civil and po­liti­cal rights, 200; disappearance of Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers College students, 112; in El Salvador, 98; and family-­separation policy, 115–16; and gender equality, 178; ­human rights governance by, 250, 251–56; and ­human trafficking, 181–82; Latin American leadership at, 15–18, 254–55; and LGBTQ rights, 188; and Nicaraguan election, 117; peace agreement in Guatemala, 101; role in Central Amer­i­ca, 97; sanctions against Haiti, 152; voting blocs within, 254 United Nations ­Children’s Fund (UNICEF), 253–54 United Nations Forum on Indigenous Issues, 194 United Nations General Assembly, Cuban embargo and, 162, 244 United Nations High Commissioner for ­Human Rights (UNHCHR), 89, 144, 255 United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 253, 255 United Nations ­Human Rights Commission, 16, 17, 252 United Nations ­Human Rights Committee, 251 United Nations ­Human Rights Council, 252 United Nations Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH), 155 United Nations Observer Mission in El Salvador (ONUSAL), 98 United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for ­Human Rights (OHCHR), 18, 252, 255

United Nations Refugee Agency, 145 United Nations Security Council, 245 United Nations Special Rapporteurs, 110, 252–55 United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), 153, 154, 154–55, 254 United Nations Truth Commission for El Salvador, 263–64 United Nations ­Women, 255 United Self-­Defense Forces of Colombia. See Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (United Self-­Defense Forces of Colombia, AUC) United States: aid against femicide, 110–11; and asylum, 114–15, 145, 152; and civil and po­liti­cal rights, 200; and Cold War, 37–38, 96, 285; and Covid-19, 212; and Cuban in­de­pen­dence, 158; Cuban refugees in, 152, 162; effectiveness of h ­ uman rights pressure, 245; embargo on Cuba, 159, 162–63, 244, 285; foreign policy of, 41–43, 74–75, 243, 244, 284–85; Haiti involvement, 151–53; as highly influential, 243–45; immigration control by, 115; life expectancy in, 208; and Operation Condor, 82; opposition to the ICC, 257–58; pressure on Latin American countries, 242; prosecution of ­human rights cases by, 62; role of in Latin Amer­i­ca, 36–43, 96–97; support of anti-­communist regimes, 37, 81, 97, 98, 100, 127, 159; “war on drugs,” 98, 111–12, 127, 138 United States Department of Health and ­Human Ser­vices, 115 United States Drug Enforcement Agency, 141 United States State Department, Po­liti­cal Terror Scale and, 276 United States Supreme Court, 63 Universal Declaration of H ­ uman Rights (UDHR), 4, 5t, 15–17, 200 universal jurisdiction, 84, 102 Universal Periodic Review (UPR), 252 universities in Brazil, 169–70 urban areas, migration of indigenous ­people to, 193 Uribe, Alvaro, 127 Uruguay: abortion in, 209; ­human rights accountability in, 88–90; language to dehumanize in, 72; maternal health in, 209; po­liti­cal terror in, 69, 275, 275t; public memorials in, 59; same-­sex marriage in, 187, 188; truth commissions in, 51, 53t

332 I n de x the Vatican, 145 Velásquez Rodríguez, Angel Manfredo, 227, 265 Velásquez Rodríguez v. Honduras, 264, 265, 266t Venezuela, 123, 142–45; constitution of, 143; democ­ratization in, 283; “digital authoritarianism” in, 234–35; disbanding of legislature, 144; food shortage in, 143, 208; growth of ­human rights groups in, 288; ICC in, 258; indigenous politics in, 196; international aid to, 208; judicial reform in, 239; maternal health in, 209; on Po­liti­cal Terror Scale, 275, 275t; refugees from, 144–45, 243, 253, 294; sanctions against, 145, 244, 285; vio­lence against protesters in, 144, 283 Vicaría de la Solidaridad, 228 Videla, Jorge, 77 Vieira de Mello, Sergio, 255 Vieques, Puerto Rico, 163 Villa Grimaldi, Chile, 59–60, 87 vio­lence: against indigenous ­people, 194; in prisons, 167–68 vio­lence against ­women, 110, 182–84, 185, 262, 284, 312n9. See also femicide vio­lence against young black men, 167, 168 Vizcarra, Martín, 135t, 136 von Wernich, Christian, 229 vote, right to, 137, 178 voting blocs, UN, 254 Waorani ­people, 195 war, h ­ uman rights abuses and, 26–27, 283 “war on drugs”: in Mexico, 111–12, 114, 283; and national security ideology, 34; and prisons, 168; U.S. support of, 39, 41–42, 98, 127 “war on terrorism,” 34, 129–30 “Washington Consensus,” 240 Washington Office on Latin Amer­i­c a (WOLA), 74, 110, 236–37, 243 ­water companies, privatization of, 138–39 ­Water War, 139 Weber, Max, 30

Western Hemi­sphere Institute of Security Cooperation, 40. See also School of the Amer­i­cas (SOA) When the Mountains T ­ remble (1986 documentary), 100 WITNESS (organ­ization), 233–34 WOLA. See Washington Office on Latin Amer­i­ca (WOLA) ­women: and CCTs, 213; disappearance of, 108–9; in the FARC, 125; and informal economies, 181; in politics, 179–80; and poverty, 180–81; and social movements, 178–79. See also femicide; sexual vio­lence; vio­lence against ­women ­women, indigenous: forced sterilization of, 136, 210; and in­equality, 104–5; and poverty, 193 ­women’s rights, 178–85, 225, 255 Workers’ Party (Partido dos Trabalhadores, PT), 170–71 World Bank: and Belo Monte proj­ect, 217; education for indigenous groups, 193; and environmental degradation, 194; and extractive resources, 166; ­human rights pressure through, 245; and indigenous ­people, 141, 192; and neoliberalism, 34; and privatization of public utilities, 138–39 World Council of Churches, 228 World Court (International Court of Justice), 256 World Health Organ­ization, 190, 254 World Organ­ization Against Torture, 237 World Wildlife Fund, 165 Xingu River, 216 Yellow Brigades, 186 young black men, vio­lence against, 167, 168 Zapatistas. See Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (EZLN) Zetas gang. See Los Zetas gang Zika virus, 210